Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Gatland - opportunity missed

Warren Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland was once again left to reflect on a missed opportunity after seeing his side edged out 34-31 by South Africa in a thriller at the Millennium Stadium.

The hosts had opened up a 16-3 lead at the end of the opening quarter, but a South Africa onslaught in the 20 minute spells either side of half-time saw the world champions take a 31-19 lead. Wales fought back late on through tries from teenage wing Tom Prydie, making him their youngest Test try-scorer and Alun Wyn Jones, but it was not enough.

"We are frustrated," said Gatland, who has now seen his side lose out in close games against France, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa (twice) over the course of the last two seasons. "If that was a couple of years ago we would have said what a good performance it was. But we have come on from there."

He added: "In the opening 25 minutes we were clinical, accurate and 16-3 up, and then we caught some sort of disease, I don't know what it is.

"We got ourselves in a bit of trouble, got behind and then showed great character at the end. But we are frustrated at a missed opportunity."

Wales had been tipped by many as favourites for Saturday's clash on account of South Africa sending a weakened squad which did not include the likes of wing Bryan Habana, number eight Pierre Spies and lock Bakkies Botha.

But, despite another defeat against Tri Nations opposition, and the daunting prospect of two upcoming Tests in New Zealand later this month, Gatland believes his side are very close to realising their potential.

He added: "We played the world champions. Guys who played in the Super 14 final last week, and the Stormers and the Bulls are two of the best teams in the world.

"The thing from today is you feel like you are not too far away and you are not turning up thinking we hope to have a good day and they have a bad day and we can cause an upset.

"We know if we are more clinical we are capable of beating anyone. As a team you grow and mature and learn to handle situations and sometimes it's about a bit of luck getting that win can transform a side's confidence and belief."

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