By Ossian Shine
TOKYO (Reuters) – Welsh coach Warren Gatland is bemused that many consider his side to be the underdog for this Sunday’s rugby World Cup semi-final. But he hopes that continues to be the case.
It’s little surprise that Gatland is bewildered by the long odds placed on the Welsh, who have beaten the Springboks in all of their last four clashes, with the Boks’ last win coming in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final.
Most pundits, though, feel the South Africans will be simply too strong in Yokohama, and have greater depth.
“The nice thing about being here is you are kind of in a bubble,” Gatland chuckled to reporters in a central Tokyo hotel on Friday. “You’re not seeing a lot of the stuff externally,” he said of the comments in sports media.
“If they continue to do that over the next couple of days, that would be brilliant. Please, please keep doing that, because it does get us up when people write us off.
“I can’t understand why people would write us off when our record over South Africa has been pretty good in the last four or five years, and that speaks for itself.”
New Zealander Gatland says he expects Sunday’s showdown to be a very tight game.
“We saw that first half with South Africa-Japan and that was a tight game.
“It will probably be a kicking-fest… they kicked 30 times against Japan so we’ve just got to be able to handle their game.
“It won’t be the prettiest game in the world, it will be a tight test match with probably teams playing (for) territory depending what the weather is like, you’ll see a lot of ball going in the air and we’ll have to handle that and they’ll have to handle our game too.”
Even though Wales have had the upper hand in recent games, the South Africans overall record over Wales is lop-sided with 28 wins, a draw and six defeats.
The winner will face either New Zealand or England in the World Cup final on Nov. 2.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)