What the Welsh newspapers are saying ahead of the clash at the Millennium Stadium.
The Western Mail has dedicated six pages in today’s edition to the big Test in Cardiff. The headline on the front page sums up the mood of the locals. ‘Maybe this time?’ it asks hopefully. The photograph is of Jamie Roberts and Jean de Villiers, two players who will be massively important for their respective teams.
‘Let’s put the record straight and just do it’ is the title of a comment piece on the Mail’s back page. ‘For South Africa this is the last game of the season, for Wales it’s last chance saloon’, says the unnamed writer. ‘Let’s have no hard luck stories today, no near misses, no last-gasp calamities, no regrets’.
Inside the sports section, Simon Thomas discusses Warren Gatland’s value to Wales. Thomas believes some of the criticism levelled at the coach has been over the top. He refers to a conversation he had recently with former Wales captain Mike Hall, who said that the Welsh public ‘are spoilt to have such a magnificent coach’.
Thomas believes if you keep getting into winning positions, as Wales have been doing, the law of averages states you are eventually going to win. However, Thomas does question Wales’ belief and ability to clinch the game at the death. ‘For all his undoubted coaching ability, instilling that belief in his players is the biggest challenge Gatland will have faced this week after so many morale-sapping close shaves’.
‘Players will adopt a siege mentality against Boks’ is the title of Ryan Jones’s column in the Mail. The former Wales captain says the Dragons were hugely impressive against New Zealand last week, but they need to start closing games out. Jones adds that Wales and the Boks have a similar, physical approach. He has called for Wales to keep the ball in the latter stages of the game.
Paul Rees has also focused on Wales’ lack of composure in the final 20 minutes of a contest. 'It is at the point when a match reaches the stage when fatigue, mental and physical, sets in, and it becomes about what lies deep within, that Wales lose their grip, in contrast to South Africa …They are vulnerable when a Test swivels on playing rather than coaching’ he writes in the Guardian.
Rees believes that many people have got it wrong, and that if there is any pressure it’s on the players rather than the head coach. ‘They have the experience as well as the ability. Key figures, such as Dan Biggar, Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny, need to see clearly when the fog of fatigue falls, watching and waiting. Gatland has done his bit: it is down to those wearing the jersey to take responsibility. If they don’t, the long wait will go on’.
By Jon Cardinelli