Warren Gatland blew his top after witnessing Wales’ latest bout of Tri-Nations torture with star flanker Martyn Williams revealing: “That was the angriest I have seen him.”
PA Sport, Rugby Union Correspondent, Andrew Baldock reports that Gatland let rip with the full Sir Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment, furious his reigning Six Nations champions allowed a golden opportunity to pass them by in the 20-15 loss to South Africa.
Wales can reflect on one win in 102 years against the Boks, but they should have turned back the clock to June 26, 1999 and revisited the scene of a famous win.
Gatland’s men might never get a better chance to emulate those Welsh heroes of nine years ago – Lions like Scott Quinnell, Allan Bateman, David Young, Neil Jenkins and skipper Rob Howley.
How Howley and Jenkins, half-back partners that afternoon, must have wished they could pull on the red jersey again and played – rather than watched as part of Gatland’s coaching staff.
Wales went close, but not close enough, to toppling the World Cup holders.
In 32 Tests against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia since rugby union’s profesional era dawned more than 13 years ago, Wales have only triumphed twice.
And hard-nosed New Zealander Gatland – maybe unlike some of his Wales coaching predecessors – has no time for heroic failures.
Williams said: “We had a bit of a rollocking, but that is a sign of how far we’ve come.
“Eighteen months ago, the boys would probably have been patting each other on the back and high-fiving each other after losing by just five points to a team like South Africa.
“We were told in no uncertain terms we should be disappointed with letting that one get away.
“That was the angriest I have seen Warren. He was very animated, and rightly so.
“When the top sides get chances, they put them away, and we didn’t. We should be winning games like that one – we did everything bar score a try.
“At the key points, we weren’t mature enough and we weren’t clinical enough, so it is something we have got to get out of our game.”
With the All Blacks soon arriving in Cardiff – quickly followed by Australia – time is not on Wales’ side.
Williams added: “We gave South Africa two starts. To be 10-0 down and 20-3 down was always a big ask to come back from.
“We can take heart from dominating the second half like we did, but the hard edge Warren brings is that we expect to win those games.
“It has been a trait of ours that by the time we realise we are in the game and can match these sides, it is too late – we are too far behind.
“It is about hard work on the training field, and believing in ourselves.
“South Africa had two chances and scored two tries – we had a number of chances and didn’t score any.”
When the dust settles on a third Welsh defeat in five months against South Africa, it could prove an occasion ultimately remembered for the emergence of two players with serious 2011 World Cup ambitions.
Wing Leigh Halfpenny and number eight Andy Powell both delivered high-powered Test debuts at the centre of Wales’ best moments.
Halfpenny, who does not turn 20 until December 22, produced a workaholic display in attack and defence.
He also showed nerves of steel to land a first-half penalty, stepping up without hesitation when goalkicker Stephen Jones was being treated for an injury.
And Powell proved such a handful for the Springboks’ defence that Williams hailed it as “a Lions performance”. Given 2009 Lions head coach Ian McGeechan and manager Gerald Davies were in the stadium, Powell’s timing could not have been better.
Wales though, paid for a dreadful start – 10-0 down after nine minutes – and substitute fly-half James Hook’s pass that Springboks centre Jean de Villiers read brilliantly, intercepted and then raced 55 metres to score.
Gatland said: “It was a lost opportunity, absolutely. We are more than disappointed.
“I said to the boys they should be really disappointed. We were the best team, we played most of the rugby and we had our chances.
“The next step in the development of this team is to nail those opportunities.
“The unfortunate thing is you have to take the pain and learn from your mistakes.”
South Africa’s 10th successive win against Wales arrived courtesy of tries by de Villiers and his centre partner Adrian Jacobs, with fly-half Ruan Pienaar booting two penalties and two conversions.
Hook’s four second-half penalties meant the Springboks could never relax, yet poor set-piece discipline at critical times, soft penalty concessions and a lack of composure left Wales deflated.Tweet