Wales take heart from big win

Warren Gatland admits that it feels good to have ‘wounded one of the big beasts’ less than a year out from the 2015 World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.

Wales’ 12-6 win over South Africa on Saturday marks an end to six years of southern hemisphere dominance. There may be no cause for celebration just yet, as Gatland’s Wales have only managed two wins in 28 contests but at least they now know what it feels like to beat the Springboks.

Gatland has been under pressure this week to produce results. On Thursday, he played down the significance of the game against the Boks, stating that results in the Six Nations and 2015 World Cup are more important. On Saturday after the Test, he stuck to this line and said that while it felt great to win, Wales still have plenty to prove in the next year or so.

‘I was pretty nervous towards the end there,’ he admitted, when asked about a series of Welsh errors that almost gave South Africa a chance of yet another last-gasp victory. ‘They don’t make it easy for us coaches, do they?

‘I won’t say I’m relieved. I think my captain Sam Warburton said it best this past Thursday when he said it was a matter of when rather than if we finished in these matches. And we’ve been clear from the beginning that there are no competition points on offer this autumn. It’s all about building and then performing in the 2015 Six Nations and World Cup.’

Pushed for comment on the significance of the win in the context of next year’s global tournament, Gatland said the South African scalp is a valuable one.

‘’We’ve pushed the three best teams in the world this November, and it was great to finish off against South Africa. We’ve wounded one of the big beasts now, and it feels good. Obviously they won’t forget it, and when we meet again, it will be even tougher.

‘We look at it as a stepping stone towards success [at the 2015 World Cup]. It’s something we will look back on a year from now. We went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks last week, and showed our mental toughness to win against the Boks. These are the experiences that will give us confidence.’

While Gatland remained poker-faced, Warburton couldn’t hide his obvious elation. The Wales captain smiled when asked the same question about the importance of this win a year out from the all-important World Cup.

‘I’ve always said that if we want to win the World Cup, we are going to have to beat at least one of these teams. Psychologically, this will help. We know they will come out firing the next time we play them, but it’s great to know we have ticked that box and got a win under our belts.’

Wales snap losing streak

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli