Worried Gatland had to turn away

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Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Wales coach Warren Gatland could not bring himself to watch the final few minutes as his side finally slayed a southern hemisphere giant with a landmark 12-6 win over South Africa.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny’s boot saw off the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium to earn the hosts a long-awaited victory in Cardiff.

Halfpenny’s four penalties brought about a first win over South Africa, Australia or New Zealand since November 2008, bringing an end to an unwanted run of 22 successive defeats to the trio.

Asked how he felt as the clock ran down, Gatland said: “The same as I’ve been feeling on other occasions – they don’t make it easy on the coaches, I tell you that.

“I couldn’t watch the last couple of minutes. I was just watching it in the box on the television, standing up.”

Reflecting on captain Sam Warburton’s pre-match message, Gatland added: “I don’t think it’s a relief. Sam made a good point before the game that it wasn’t a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’ it was going to happen.

“We deserved that win today. In terms of the relief, and the pressure people talk about, you thrive on that at this level. That’s what it’s all about.

“The autumn series is about playing the best in the world. There are no competition points at stake. For us it’s about the Six Nations and preparing for that. We’ve tried to communicate in this campaign that we’re looking at these matches as like World Cup camps in terms of preparing for that next year.

“That’s the focus we’ve had and we’re very happy with how the whole autumn campaign transpired.

“We’ve pushed the three best teams in the world right to the end. In two games we were leading but couldn’t finish it off. Today we made it a little bit hard for ourselves again but we deserved to win it.”

Wales’ triumph was only their second in 30 attempts against the Springboks, and a first for 15 years, as they bounced back from losing to world champions New Zealand last weekend.

It will send them into February’s RBS 6 Nations opener against England with topped up confidence levels, while they also gained a slight psychological edge ahead of a possible World Cup quarter-final appointment with South Africa next October.

Although the game was not a free-flowing spectacle, Wales deservedly prevailed after digging deep into their stamina reserves and shading the key physical battles.

The Wales scrum enjoyed an outstanding afternoon and South Africa could make little headway, frustrated by a lack of quality possession that meant they could not unleash dangerous runners like full-back Willie le Roux and centre Jan Serfontein.

Wales captain Sam Warburton savoured the achievement, and told BBC1: “It’s amazing.

“I said before, I wish people could see the effort we’ve put in in the last five weeks. We’ve been getting up at six in the morning and altitude-training, and doing all sorts, we were just so desperate to get this win.

“You get out what you put in and that was the case this afternoon.

“It’s awesome. We’ve been desperate to do this for so long and we’ve been knocking on the door for ages. I’ve been in the set-up since 2009 and we haven’t achieved it.

“This is right up there with the best achievements I’ve had in the Wales jersey and hopefully the team can kick on from that.”

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer was philosophical in defeat but left to lament a “quite worrying” kneecap injury to captain Jean de Villiers.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing,” Meyer said.

“We knew our character and depth would be tested so we knew it was going to be tough.

“I just thought there were too many mistakes and there were two big turning points. Usually in the last 20 minutes the game opens up and we play some of our best rugby and in their two previous games, Wales have lost it in the last 10 minutes.

“When Jean got injured it was a big setback. Not just because he’s our captain but it took about seven or eight minutes to get him off the field and we lost our continuity.”

Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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