What the Welsh newspapers are saying ahead of the clash at the Millennium Stadium.
Thursday’s press conference at the Wales team hotel did not pan out as expected. The local media criticised Warren Gatland after Wales’ recent defeat to the All Blacks, their 26th in 27 Tests against the big southern hemisphere teams since 2008. Gatland has hit back at selected journalists recently, and it's believed that the Wales Rugby Union formally complained to the BBC about an interview conducted after the loss to the All Blacks.
On Thursday, however Gatland was anything but combative, and moved to convince the press that the coming clash against the Boks is not do or die.
‘Measured Warren defuses row over McLaughlan questioning’ reads a headline in the Western Mail. Rugby editor Delme Parfitt notes that in Thursday’s press conference, ‘Gatland parked the killer stare, and smiled. He was sanguine and philosophical, speaking in measured tones rather than in emotional ones’. Parfitt said Gatland succeeded in disarming his critics, but still reminds readers that Gatland lost his temper with BBC reporter Sonja McLaughlan following the defeat to New Zealand. “But then Gatland is only human’, he writes.
But Gatland did get asked whether he felt he was under pressure. Former international coaches John Mitchell and Clive Woodward have both penned columns that detail why Wales are on a downward spiral and why the time for excuses has passed. With regards to the 'no excuses' remark, Gatland said it was fair comment.
On ESPN Scrum, Mitchell wrote: ‘Wales will be desperate for a Springbok scalp this Saturday and won’t have a better opportunity to beat South Africa, who are without their overseas players … I’ve heard Gatland make excuses for recent defeats and he’s bemoaned the fact that he does not get to spend enough time with his players. But which international coach does?’
‘Warren’s going nowhere … but victory over Boks wouldn’t do any harm’ is the title of Gwn Jones’s column in today’s Western Mail. ‘Until a southern hemisphere scalp is taken, the question will linger, even if it is not referred to directly,’ says Jones. ‘The only way to move forward is to win … South Africa have been far from impressive on this tour. Well beaten by Ireland, limited against a poor England’.
Jones feels Wales must cope with the Boks' driving maul if they are to be successful. He says Wales must mix up their tactics at this set piece. He believes Wales can win on Saturday. “I think Wales will win by four points and that will relieve a little of the pressure for a while’.
Prop Gethin Jenkins tells the South Wales Echo that he doesn’t know why Gatland is under pressure. He said Gatland has changed Wales for the better over the past six years, and can’t understand where the questions of pressure are coming from. Jenkins said there is no added desire to win this Saturday just because Wales are playing one of the southern hemisphere giants. 'Southern hemisphere, northern hemisphere, it doesn't make much difference'.
By Jon Cardinelli