Wales v South Africa reaction
Sun, 07 Nov 2004 00:00
South Africa's tense 38-36 win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday may have had the fans at the edge of their seats, but Welsh and South African hacks chose to perform a phlegmatic autopsy that focused more on the spills than on the thrills.
"All that was lacking yesterday [for Wales] was BELIEF. Wales didn't believe they could win at the start of the game and that proved critical. Deep into injury time they did, but by then it was too late.
"Chances to beat the best sides in the world don't come along very often, especially if you're Wales, and you have to see this as a missed opportunity.
"If they have genuine ambitions they have to win at the Millennium Stadium, even if it is in front of a poor crowd of 55,000.
"It needs to become a fortress. For the first quarter of this game it looked like a sandcastle."
- Wales on Sunday
"Watching Wales play the game they worship was great fun at the Millennium Stadium and I suspect it will continue to be. We have such an array of running talent which is a joy to watch. But the Welsh need a touch of the prosaic to lace with the poetic, or sides as good as South Africa will punish you as they did yesterday.
"When you have the ball, especially against a side like South Africa, you have to keep it. Treasure it. Add patience to panache. If you have made the initial break over the gain-line there is no need to risk an error and turnover.
"Wales never took a backward step in an afternoon of relentless commitment and ambition. They have the ability, fore and aft, to break the line. Wales could have won. A touch of the clinical to go with the daring and they would have won."
- Ieuan Evans, The Sunday Telegraph
"It was a perfect end to an encouraging performance at home for the new Wales coach Mike Ruddock. The only problem for Wales was that South Africa had by then scored 38 points. It had been a truly uplifting Welsh display, but they had still lost. The Welsh scrummage may have ended the afternoon in forward gear, but at key moments during the rest of the proceedings they had found themselves going backwards."
- Eddie Butler, The Observer
"If Wales had an effective line-out then we might this morning be celebrating a famous victory over the Tri-Nations champions.
"Taking nothing away from a brave and committed Welsh display it is imperative that Mike Ruddock works hard on establishing a platform at the line-out.
"It is an area that has been blighting our rugby for years. We have seen teams struggling at the line-out at regional level this season. Just look at the Blues.
"After yesterday I don't see it as out of the question that we can match New Zealand and possibly sneak a famous victory.
"November 19, 2004 could be a memorable day in the national game's history. But don't hold your breath."
- Bram Humphries, Wales on Sunday
"This was far from a convincing performance by White's men. They had the line-out control they sought, principally through the leaping of Victor Matfield and Joe van Niekerk. And early on, they showed powerful surges in the set scrums.
"But there were too many nerves jangling around the Springbok side, for Jake White's comfort. They looked rusty, as befits a side that has not played together since August. And there was a lack of calm and composure when Wales mounted their pressure.
"But on a dank, damp day in Cardiff, [Fourie] Du Preez was just what South Africa needed. He kept calm, supplied a steady service, kicked astutely to keep his forwards advancing and was a vital cog in the South African machine. Just as important, his defensive reading of the game enabled him to make some critical tackles and alleviate positions of danger.
"But if the Springboks are to get to the end of this tour with their hands around the mythical Grand Slam, then they are going to have to show a whole lot more presence and composure.
"The pressure Wales mounted was only sporadic for long spells, yet alarm bells were going off throughout the Boks side.
"That will have concerned Jake White mightily."
- Peter Bills, Sunday Independent (SA)
"Okay, so it was scratchy, muddled and occasionally exasperating, but destination Grand Slam is still on track for South Africa. But only just.
"They were given a surprisingly hard ride by Wales, who brought a fair bit of Celtic mongrel to the fixture but never possessed the class to make it matter.
"The Springboks duly won, but they will need more than pride and bloody-mindedness in the weeks ahead to overcome the other Home Unions.
"Frankly, they looked underdone yesterday. And it wasnt hard to know why. There were dark mutterings by players and officials over the distractions of the past week that included the running row over the composition of the squad and also the grind of official functions and dinners."
- Clinton van der Berg, Sunday Times (SA)
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