WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wales coach Warren Gatland was pleased with his inexperienced side who held on for a 22-20 win over South Africa in their one-off test at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial stadium on Saturday.
Both teams fielded weakened sides and the poorly-attended, rain-soaked match was strewn with errors.
The Wales coach praised the learning environment and said the hot conditions helped approximate what Wales could expect at next year’s World Cup in Japan.
But he was concerned at the game management as Wales let a 14-3 half-time lead slip and were 20-17 down going into the final five minutes. They scoring the winning points from a charge down.
“You look at the last few minutes and you think, let’s just manage the game at the end there and kill the clock off and we’ve ended up with a turnover and putting ourselves under a bit of pressure,” he said.
“Some of our game management was good and other times, at this level, it will need to improve. A lot of learning took place and guys will be better for that.
“We got a huge amount out of it. The players have just said how hot and humid it was. We know that Japan will be similar.”
Wales now head to Argentina for two tests against the Pumas on June 9 and 16.
They will, however, have a makeshift squad missing their British and Irish Lions contingent, who have been rested after last year’s tour to New Zealand.
Some of Saturday’s top performers could yet find themselves out of the World Cup squad for next year’s tournament in Japan.
“We were pretty straight up with these guys and they’re all well aware of what we’ve been trying to do in the last 18 months and that’s to really develop some depth and some competition in certain positions,” Gatland said.
“This is very much what the autumn was about last year and the Six Nations and the guys who went on the summer tour last year to play Tonga and Samoa.
“There are 10 or 11 players who aren’t here who, if their form is good enough, they’re probably going to make the World Cup squad.
“But the biggest thing that I want is for guys to be under pressure. Hopefully there’s a few of those 10 or 11 players sitting at home at the moment... realising there are a couple of players that have played exceptionally well and have won.”
Gatland was looking forward to the challenge against Argentina.
“We’ve got a couple of tough games against Argentina,” he said.
“Most of them play for the Jaguares team so they’ll be fairly familiar with everything and they’ve done well in Super Rugby so it’s something for us to look forward to.”
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by xx