(PRESENT WERE WARREN GATLAND, DAN LYDIATE, SHAUN EDWARDS AND ROB HOWLEY)
Q: Warren, was that pretty much mission accomplished, with most boxes ticked?
A: WG – Yeah, to be honest, I’m absolutely delighted with that result and performance.
It was a tough game. The EP Kings came out to play rugby and they are just a typical South African team. They never gave up and really went out and put us under some pressure, which was really good. I thought some of their handling and skill and adventure was excellent.
I said to the guys in the changing room, if you win any game in South Africa you have got to enjoy it, because it is such a tough place to come and play rugby.
A lot of the players involved had found the pace and intensity of the trial match tough. But we have had a couple of weeks with them and they went out and performed. And there’s another level in a lot of those players.
It was a great result. We got a huge amount of it and a lot of confidence and it will be good for the future for us.
Q: Was it also a useful exercise in the sense that your defence was tested at times, particularly when you were down to 14 men with Rhodri Jones in the sin-bin?
A: WG – Shaun Edwards spoke afterwards about how well we scrambled under a bit of pressure.
I think the penalty count of 18-10 is something we need to address. It was a little bit high, but it’s probably what we expected. It’s going to be tough when you are in front.
It was a good work out under some pressure and I thought the guys scrambled well. I was pleased that our fitness held up well. A number of the Kings’ players were going down with cramp towards the end. They hadn’t played a lot of rugby and it was their first game for a long time. It doesn’t matter how much conditioning you do, it’s rugby fitness that counts.
There were some good performances and it was pleasing to get the tour off with a confidence builder and hopefully it will be positive for the guys watching back in Durban too.
Q: Have you been given a few selection headaches ahead of the first Test against the Springboks?
A: WG – If you are picking individuals, I thought Scott Baldwin was good at hooker, although there are a couple of things defensively he needs to work on. Both scrum-halves – Rhodri Williams and Gareth Davies – were good. I thought Rhodri defended well on the wing when we moved him there.
Matthew Morgan’s decision-making was excellent at 15. He brought the ball back and ran when it was on. He passed and kicked ahead which was good, so he was really exciting.
There were a couple of nice touches from Jordan Williams on the wing and the two centres were generally pretty positive as well. Dan Baker was good. He carried well and defended well and really caused them a few problems.
Dan Lydiate needed a run out and had 55 minutes, so that was good.
All of us are pretty happy and, as I’ve said, any win in South Africa, you take them with two hands.
We’ve got a few selection headaches, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Q: Can you just clarify the George North situation, with him having been withdrawn from the bench and you going into the game with just the seven subs?
A: WG – George had a headache and fever on Monday night, so we just thought it precautionary to isolate him, so he didn’t affect anyone else.
We did debate between the staff who might sit on the bench. Rhys Long, our analyst, put his hand up. He was desperate to play his first game for Wales. But we thought it wouldn’t look too good with that figure coming onto the field, so we decided just to stick with the 22!
It meant George didn’t have to go on and we didn’t have to expose Liam Williams in the end either.
Q: Dan, do you feel ready to play in a Test match after that run-out?
A: DL – It was a really good hit-up. I think it got better as the game went on. There was about 40 minutes ball in play, so it was a good blow on. The boys really had a good work out. I was really pleased for first captaining the side and how it went, getting the results. And, like Gats has said, some of the younger boys wearing the jersey for the first time put their hands up and played really well.
Q: Shaun, you are never happy conceding any tries, but what about the defensive performance over all?
A: SE – I was delighted with the scramble defence and in the second half we started putting some really big shots in. I think we actually created two tries from our defence.
Obviously the second try we conceded right at the end was a little bit disappointing because James Hook ripped the ball out of the player’s hands. Sometimes the referee gives that as a scrum, but he didn’t and they got a scramble try.
But they were in our 22 for almost eight minutes and they had five driven line-outs on our five yard line and the boys defended manfully.
It is something we will have to look at though, because I don’t think it’s advisable to give the Springboks so much time in your 22. Let’s be honest, it would be virtually impossible to keep them out.
But there has been a massive improvement in the players from where they were two weeks ago.
Q: What was your view of the performance attacking-wise, Rob?
A: RH – It was very unstructured wasn’t it? There wasn’t much set-piece. I was really happy in terms of the counter-attack, the ambition, the adventure.
The important thing is a lot of those players played against the Probables in the trial. They hadn’t been together a long period of time and they were shell-shocked what happened in that match. But they learned from that experience. I was really pleased for them because they came out and got a good win. As Gats said, it’s not easy to win in South Africa.
Q: Warren, what did you think about the number of penalties and free-kicks at the scrums?
A: WG – It’s no different to any game. It’s a guessing game at the moment and a little bit of a lottery.
It’s tough on the referees. I played in the front row myself, but I can’t tell sometimes which way the penalties should go as well.
There were quite a few penalties in the first-half. We spoke at half-time about scrummaging higher and making sure both teams stayed on their feet. It was a little bit better in the second-half.
It’s something we need to be aware of. It’s going to be tough on Saturday. We have got to do some work on scrum-time. I think South Africa, after being under a bit of pressure against the World XV at scrum-time, will work pretty hard on that area as well. Hopefully it’s a good battle on the weekend and we don’t have too many scrum penalties between us.
Q: Frans Steyn has withdrawn from the Springboks squad for the Test series, joining the injured Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie on the sidelines, so does that make the centre an area for you to target, with your experience there?
A: WG – We have got a little bit of experience there. But sometimes you are better off with the devil you know than the devil you don’t. There is so much depth and talent in South Africa. They could lose six or seven players and bring in enough strength and depth.
I see Fran has been released for personal reasons, so I just hope that it’s not too long before we see him back on the field. He’s a quality player and he’s caused us a few problems in the past. It does give someone else an opportunity and there have been some other centres that have performed well in Super Rugby who perhaps will come in and fill the gap that has been created.