Wales coach Warren Gatland appeared to take a subtle swipe at Springbok coach Peter de Villiers when he addressed a press conference in Stellenbosch on Tuesday afternoon.
Gavin Rich writes in Superrugby that many who have sat through De Villiers’ press conferences or read his comments in the media have been a bit perplexed at what the new Bok coach might be intending, with some of his comments appearing contradictory. If the South African’s plan was to confuse the opposition, then it appears he has hit bull’s eye.
For instance, there must surely have been more than a hint of sarcasm behind the following Gatland comment: “If it happens, I am looking forward to the fact that they want to run us off our feet and play an offloading game while also physically dominating and intimidating us. I am excited by those challenges”.
Before that, Gatland, who was adept at making subtle digs at opponents in verbal sparring contests on his previous tour to South Africa as coach of Ireland in 1998, admitted that he couldn’t get a handle on what De Villiers wanted to do with the Boks, or what he expected from Wales.
“We’re expecting a tough, physical game, but I cannot quite put my finger handle on what Peter is intending to do. He says one thing in the paper one day, and then another thing the next day,” said Gatland.
“We selected a forward pack that needs to compete physically with the South Africans. A lot of the guys played against the Springboks in November, so they will be better prepared this time.”
Gatland suggested, noting comments that Stephen Jones had been picked by Wales so they could implement a kicking strategy, that not enough homework had been done on the player.
“That is a presumption that is wrong. If the people who say that had done their homework and looked at the statistics from the Six Nations, they would see that Jones actually kicked less than James Hook did,” he said.
Gatland said he had been surprised to learn that the Bok coach was intending to leave out World Cup winners Percy Montgomery and Francois Steyn from his starting team for Saturday’s opening Test in Bloemfontein.
“We would have expected both Steyn and Montgomery to be there. We certainly expected Steyn to be there, but that doesn’t look like happening now. The composition of their squad will influence on our tactics. On Thursday and Friday we’ll start concentrating on their strengths and weaknesses and assess where we may have opportunities to exploit them.”
Gatland reiterated what he said at the opening press conference after the squad’s arrival in Cape Town last week by saying that his men would be out to show the Boks and the South African supporters that the Welsh should be respected.
“The Six Nations was a stepping stone for us, we want to see how we can do beyond that, and this South African tour is a perfect opportunity for us to learn and show how much we have grown.”Tweet