The Springboks should expect the unexpected when they come up against a well-coached Wales team in the World Cup quarter-finals, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
Where do Wales go to from here?
On Saturday, they dominated Australia for much of the contest. They threw everything they had at a 13-man Wallabies defence at a crucial stage of the second half.
And yet, they came away from that period with nothing to show for their efforts. They finished the game with a loss, and will be hard pressed to recover ahead of another brutal physical encounter against the Boks.
After the match, Wales coach Warren Gatland confirmed that centre Jamie Roberts (head) and Liam Williams (foot) sustained injuries over the course of the game. The last thing an already depleted Wales back division needs at this point is further setbacks.
The biggest injury concern may be the one to the Welsh psyche. Can they pick themselves up after such a disappointing result?
Gatland and captain Sam Warburton made all the right noises at the post-match press conference on Saturday night. The Wales coach and captain feel that this team knows how to beat South Africa. They cited the near miss in Nelspruit in June 2014 as well as the victory in Cardiff last year as evidence.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika agreed that the Dragons would be tough to beat in the quarter-finals. Cheika admitted that the Wallabies were somewhat surprised by the Welsh tactics at the tackle. He praised the Wales coaching staff for their planning and sent out a warning to the Dragons’ next opponents, South Africa.
‘Yeah, they can beat the Boks,’ said Cheika. ‘They caused us a lot of trouble, and brought something to the game that we hadn’t seen before.
‘That choke tackle was particularly effective early on. They had a few other tricks up their sleeve. They moved us around a lot with their kicking game and their high bombs down the middle worked well. They are a very well coached side, and the team plays with a lot of passion.
‘I’m not one who looks into the crystal ball [and predicts the outcome of games]. I don’t know who will win next week, but I do know that Wales will make their country proud.’
Gatland said the Boks have looked a more dangerous prospect since reverting to a game plan that amplifies their traditional strengths.
‘South Africa have gone back to the tried and tested, and it’s worked pretty well,’ he said. ‘We will have to be able to match that physicality. We will have to be wary of the runners off No 9. They will look to compete at the set pieces.
‘They’ve had a tough 12 months, but they’ve shown some real character to bounce back,' he added. 'Their backs have been against the wall in recent weeks, and they’ve performed when it’s mattered most.
‘We will take some lessons out of this game against Australia. We will freshen up both physically and mentally and then turn our attention to that quarter-final.’
The Boks will face Wales at Twickenham next Saturday.
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images