I have managed to get on the internet via WiFi for the first time in over a week. I was in Lusaka for the 1st Test last Saturday, but unfortunately wasn’t able to get a decent internet connection so I had to follow Wales’ defeat via Twitter. Reading the comments on Twitter, I’m rather glad I didn’t see the 38-16 defeat that Wales suffered. Later today we have the 2nd Test, and quite frankly I don’t see anything but a second defeat on the cards.
Obviously, not having seen the game, I cannot comment too much on the manner of Wales’ defeat, but from what I can gather we were thoroughly outplayed in every department. It seems that Wales just do not have the physicality to compete with South Africa, who have inflicted the heaviest defeats of any team on Wales in the last few years. Apart from coming within one point of beating them in the opening match of the 2011 World Cup, we have not come close to beating South Africa during Gatland’s tenure as national coach.
Given that the match will be played at altitude, in Nelspruit, the result today could be even worse that last Saturday. I hope not, of course, but I fear the worst. I really don’t know what has happened to the Welsh team in the last 15 months. It is only in March of last year (2013) that we annihilated England in Cardiff to deny them a Grand Slam, but since then Wales seem to have gone decidedly backwards whilst England have made massive strides forward. Last Saturday, in contrast to Wales, England came within a point of New Zealand in their 2nd Test there.
I remember Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, saying after their heavy defeat to Wales in Cardiff that his side may learn more from the defeat than they might have from victory. And, had England won the Grand Slam in 2013 I suspect they would not be as good a team as they have become, because they may have thought that they were a “complete team”. By Wales tearing them apart, England realised they still had much work to do, and it seems to me that they have done this work and are now genuine contenders for next year’s World Cup which they will host.
Wales, on the other hand, look bereft of ideas. “Warren-ball” is predictable and only works when the Welsh forwards gain supremacy. When their pack do not gain this supremacy, the Welsh team do not appear to have a “plan B”. It is all very worrying for next year’s World Cup. It also occurred to me after Saturday’s heavy defeat to South Africa that two of Wales’ three Grand Slams in the last 10 years have come in 2008 and 2012, both in the 6 Nations immediately following a World Cup. Not to take anything away from Warren Gatland, but winning a Grand Slam immediately after a World Cup is probably the easiest time to do it because most teams are rebuilding after a World Cup. Wales seems to reach a peak between World Cups, but not in the year or so leading into one.
I do hope that the Welsh management learn from this South African tour, as in November we face not only South Africa but also New Zealand and Australia. Three heavy defeats in the Autumn will do nothing for our confidence, and Welsh rugby is very dependent on confidence, without it we play very poorly.
Fingers crossed for this afternoon. I would be delighted if the Welsh team surprise me!