Gatland praises young Wales squad after dramatic 22-20 win over South Africa
Skipper Ellis Jenkins said he was pleased with the result.
Warren Gatland praised Wales’ next generation of young talent after they held on to secure a dramatic 22-20 victory over South Africa at Washington’s RFK Stadium.
The game in the American capital had its critics with both sides fielding inexperienced line-ups and former Wales captain Gwyn Jones declaring it a money-spinning PR exercise.
Gatland refuted that claim and his team certainly delivered on the pitch as Ryan Elias’ late try sealed success for Wales in the American capital.
A late penalty from Robert du Preez looked to have given the South Africans the edge, but the replacement fly-half then had a clearance kick charged down by Tomos Williams and Elias pounced to win the game.
Gatland said: “Who would want to be a coach? The end was dramatic and maybe our game management could have been better, but I thought we played well in the first half.
“The young guys will take a lot from this and there will be a lot of learning from them moving forwards. I thought captain Ellis Jenkins was outstanding and so was Tomos Williams.
“There are a couple of things to work on, but we are looking forward to going to Argentina now which will be a big step up for us.”
Skipper Jenkins added: “The guys showed great determination to see out the game and the main positive is the caps and experience some of our younger guys got from the match.
“It’s a Test match and the atmosphere was very good. Everything we’ve heard surrounding this game was very positive and we’re really pleased to get the result.”
Wales had gone to the break 14-3 up, tries from Hallam Amos and scrum-half debutant Williams responding to a penalty from Elton Jantjies.
In the second half, the Springboks hit back as Test debutants Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi both crossed for tries, the latter coming after a yellow card for Wales centre Owen Watkin who was penalised for deliberately knocking the ball out of play.
Du Preez then replaced Jantjies and kicked South Africa ahead, but Elias won it at the death. The only downside for Wales was a first-half injury to wing Steffan Evans.
“Steff hyper-extended his knee and we’ll have to have a look at that on a scan. It doesn’t look brilliant, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Gatland said.
“The heat out there was something we’ll experience in Japan at the World Cup next year and that will be a big benefit to us moving forwards.”
South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus was disappointed to see his team lose at the death in what was the former Munster boss’s first game in charge of the Springboks.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted and that’s disappointing because no-one ever wants to lose a Test match,” Erasmus said.
“There were a lot of defensive errors and we have to improve.
“All three of Wales’ tries came from kicking mistakes and overall it was very tough. We took a gamble by only flying into Washington on Wednesday, but the positive of that is we will have more time to prepare for the game with England when we get home.”