What the Welsh newspapers are saying ahead of the clash at the Millennium Stadium.
The weather in Cardiff is just about as miserable as it gets. The Boks trained in rain and temperatures close to freezing at the Cardiff Arms Park on Tuesday. They will experience very different conditions when they play under the roof at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The relationship between the Wales coaching staff and the local press is just as frosty. Justified questions have been asked following the recent defeat to New Zealand. While Warren Gatland and his lieutenants may refuse to admit it, the Dragons are a side under immense pressure. The head coach himself is under pressure having only delivered the side to one win in 27 Tests against the southern hemisphere giants.
Defence coach Shaun Edwards lashed out at journalists at a press conference on Tuesday. ‘Edwards hits out at Gats pressure question’ says a headline on the front page of the Western Mail. The back page reflects how Edwards was angered by the question, and just how tense that media session was.
‘Every game has pressure,’ Edwards said. ‘If you coach the Wigan U11s you get pressure … what are you trying to get at?’ When it was put to Edwards that there has to be pressure when a team has only won only one in 27 against the best teams in the world, Edwards pointed to the three Six Nations titles won under Gatland. The questioner then backed down.
The Guardian reports that Wales have written to the BBC complaining about interviews conducted before and after the Test against New Zealand. Gatland was asked by reporter Sonja McLaughlan about Wales’ record against southern hemisphere opposition, and whether he felt he was under pressure. Gatland ended the interview by walking away. The tone of the interview with Man of the Match Jamie Roberts was ‘laudatory’, and Wales want to know why the head coach was treated so differently. Wales have also moved to delay their team announcement until Thursday.
Gatland and Edwards may believe everything is hunky dory, but Cardiff Blues coach Mark Hammett says Wales need to face up to an uncomfortable truth. The former All Blacks hooker is quoted in today’s South Wales Echo saying that Welsh rugby is ’15 years behind the All Blacks’ in terms of training and preparation. Hammett lamented where Cardiff are in terms of their fitness, and believes it's a nationwide issue. He suggested that if the clubs are battling then the national team can’t expect to go the distance against Test sides that compete in a competition like Super Rugby.
‘We’ve got the firepower to match the Boks’ says Alex Cuthbert in the South Wales Echo. The Wales winger believes the All Blacks’ unpredictability makes them a tough opponent. South Africa, Cuthbert says, are more direct and seek to beat their counterparts into submission. Cuthbert is, however, wary of another heartbreak. In a Test between the two sides in Nelspruit this past June, the Boks came back strongly in the second half and won 31-30. ‘We need to start well, build momentum, and hopefully we can finish the job’.
The newspaper has also run Edwards’ thoughts on Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks. In the buildup to the clash in Nelspruit, Edwards famously suggested that the only way to contain Le Roux was to lock him in the change room before kick-off. Edwards’ opinion of the player hasn’t changed.
‘He was the main torturer for us throughout the summer,’ said Edwards, before talking up Hendricks’ threat. ‘I was unpleasantly surprised by how good he is. I didn’t know much about him before but now I know why he’s such an outstanding player’.
By Jon Cardinelli