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'Huge gulf': Welsh coach worried by the power imbalance with South Africa

By Jan De Koning
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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Wales’ hope of winning a Test against the Springboks in South Africa for the first time appears to be fading fast.

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This can be deducted from the reaction of Dragons Director of Rugby Dragons Dean Ryan, following his team’s second successive hammering on South African soil.

Ryan pulled no punches in his post-match media briefing, following the Dragons’ disastrous two-match tour of South Africa – which saw them concede 106 points and score just 23, with 20-55 and 3-51 losses to the Bulls and Sharks respectively.

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In fact, the Dragons also lost on home soil to the Stormers (10-24).

However, it is not just the Dragons who are struggling to deal with the South African teams’ power game.

Of the 13 United Rugby Championship matches between Welsh and South African teams, only two have gone the way of the Welsh teams – Cardiff edging the Sharks 23-17 at Arms Park and Scarlets beating the Lions 36-13 in Llanelli.

Ryan believes these results – with the South African teams regularly putting 40 and 50 points past the Welsh outfits – show just how tough the three-Test series will be for Wales in July.

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The Wales national team has never won a Test against the Boks in South Africa and as it stands none of their regional sides has won in the Republic either.

Ryan said “a number of conversations” will need to happen to solve the issues facing Welsh rugby.

“The Wales challenge is a complex one,” he said, adding: “It is going to require some courage and require some people to lead.”

He added that Wales is facing a “huge issue” and if they keep on ignoring it, Welsh rugby will continue moving closer to sliding down a cliff.

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“If we needed a reminder, the last couple of weeks and months have been a stark reminder,” Ryan said.

“In the last two weeks we got an education in power,” Ryan told @rugby365com, when asked about the heavy defeats on South African soil.

“The basic of the game is based on power and at the moment there is a huge gulf between ourselves and South African opposition.”

He admitted that because they lost the collision and the set-pieces battles, they simply could not build any pressure on the opposition.

“The last 10 days there has been no a lack of effort, no lack of detail around what we are trying to achieve, but we can’t hold a scrum and that can march us up a field.

“Ultimately, the fatigue levels are enormous, and the error rate is then enormous come the last 20 minutes.”

He added that collectively the Dragons are just not up to the brute power delivered by South African teams.

“It is a reality check for us and it is a reality check for Wales going into the three-Test series in July,” was the frank response from the Dragons boss.

He again touched on the ‘gulf’ that exists between the Welsh teams and their South African counterparts when it comes to power.

“We are getting a good insight into the power at the top end of the game, both at province level and I am sure Wales will find out in July at international level.

“Outside of a few, we don’t have regions stacked with people that can handle that power.”

He said Wales coach Wayne Pivac will have a good look at the regional teams’ performances in South Africa.

“The critical mass of people that can control that power – not one individual – isn’t enough for us across the side.

“The pressure was everywhere today. At scrum, at midfield collision, at breakdown.

“We put some good defensive sets together, we were quite smart when we had chances to try and get on them. Our line-out was good quality too.

“But we cannot hold any pressure when, from the first scrum, we are marched 50 metres up the field from our own ball.”

Reflecting on the two-game South Africa tour, Ryan added: “I’m not unhappy with performances.

“I don’t have a magic wand and all I can ask is that players are at the best of their ability. I think we have been.

“We’ve come together strongly over this two-week period and levels of our performance have been good – but there is a gulf.

“You can’t play little trick plays that hide power.

“I’m not going to pretend that I have something that can solve that.

“There is a gulf between us and the top of the URC and that is a question that I have to answer within the region, with the resources we have got, and Wales has to answer in July.”

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