South's superiority concerns Gatland
Mon, 11 Nov 2013 10:05
It's not the fitness or physicality
Wales coach Warren Gatland was left lamenting the disparity in differing regional rugby after seeing his team go down 15-24 to South Africa at the weekend.
The Springboks, coming into their year-end internationals on the back of an impressive second place in the Rugby Championship, outscored Wales by three tries to nil.
The defeat was another black mark for Gatland, with Wales under his tenure having now lost 21 of their 22 Test matches against Southern Hemisphere giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, the exception a 21-18 win over the Wallabies in 2008.
Their sole victory over South Africa, in 27 internationals stretching back 107 years, came back in 1999, while New Zealand have not been trumped since 1953.
"The opportunity that South Africa and Southern Hemisphere teams get to play at that level all the time, whether in the Championship or Super rugby. We get maybe four or five chances a year," said Gatland.
"It's not the fitness or physicality, it's that tempo and speed of thought and it sometimes takes a bit of time to get used to it.
"The Southern Hemisphere sides have been together for a few months and you could feel they were pretty organised.
"That's the big difference and the advantage that Southern Hemisphere teams have over us. Coming out of club rugby or regional rugby, talking to our players, and it's chalk and cheese the difference."
The Kiwi added: "That's why every year-end we want to play the best teams in the world because that's what prepares us.
"Ironically, it's almost like pre-season getting ready for the Six Nations but we don't want it to be like that because we want to hit the ground running and beat these teams.
"We'll learn a lot from this match and improve from this match.
"The players are disappointed, but win next week and get three wins out of four and we'll be reasonably satisfied.
"It's just the fine margins."
Wales now host Argentina, Tonga and Australia on successive weekends but will be without a couple of key players after four went off injured against the Springboks, notably centre Jonathan Davies and prop Adam Jones.
Gatland said the loss of Davies to a shoulder injury after 12 minutes, the victim of a collision in the build-up to Jean de Villiers' opening try, was particularly galling.
"He was a big loss to us in the first half, he's a pretty important player for us at the moment and gives us that left-foot option," he said of a player in the form of his life and operating in the absence of injured Jamie Roberts.
"I've talked to the physio and he said it might settle at the back end of December, but if he needs an operation it could be five months out and no Six Nations."
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