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Wales’ Warren Gatland: ‘In the end, we were not good enough’

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/10/2015 Paul Rees
Wales’ coach Warren Gatland looks dejected after their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to the Springboks. © AP Photo/Frank Augstein Wales’ coach Warren Gatland looks dejected after their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to the Springboks.

Warren Gatland said he was proud of his injury-ravaged squad after a late Fourie du Preez try denied Wales a second successive World Cup semi-final. Wales, missing four first-choice backs, were leading 19-18 with five minutes to go when Duane Vermeulen and Du Preez combined at a scrum to create the try that took the Springboks through to the last four one month after losing to Japan.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more from the players,” the Wales head coach said. “They gave everything and left the field having emptied their tanks. In the end, we were not good enough. You have to give credit to South Africa, who stayed in there.

“You could look at the way we defended the scrum from which they scored the winning try and ask questions, but they showed a lot of skill and you have to respect that.

“It is very disappointing to go out so late, but Wales can be very proud of the players, the way they have performed and they commitment they have shown.

“We came out of the toughest of groups and that set us up for what we knew would be a tough quarter-final. We have developed a bit more depth because of the injuries we have suffered and we can look forward to the Six Nations and a three-Test tour to New Zealand next summer.”

The Wales captain, Sam Warburton, won five turnovers in a game where the lead changed hands six times, but his side conceded 10 penalties at the breakdown, allowing South Africa to turn territory into points throughout.

“We dealt with everything they had in the first-half, but we gave them four kicks at goal and they turned them into 12 points,” he said. “South Africa were very competitive at the breakdown and [the referee] Wayne Barnes was always going to give a penalty if you went in too high.

“We’ve had injuries this tournament, but they were mainly to the backs. If we had lost seven or eight forwards, it would have made more of a difference and it feels to me that our tournament has come to a premature end. We could have gone on for another couple of weeks.”

Had Wales won, they may have been without influential fly-half Dan Biggar and the hooker Scott Baldwin for the semi-final. Both left the field for head injury assessments and did not return.

South Africa, who beat Wales in the group stage four years ago with a late try, had practiced the move that won the game in training. Du Preez said: “We were looking for a penalty and when it didn’t come, I did what we had rehearsed and dummied a run to the right. Duane showed unbelievable skill at such a crucial moment and I am thankful we are still in the tournament after such a tough match.”

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