Warren Gatland hails ‘exceptional’ performance by Wales captain Dewi Lake

Wales boss Warren Gatland hailed an “exceptional” performance by captain Dewi Lake that epitomised a battling display against world champions South Africa at Twickenham.

Despite conceding two tries and collecting two yellow cards during the opening 15 minutes, Gatland’s team defied most pre-match odds by making it a contest until two late South African scores confirmed a 41-13 victory for the Springboks.

Wales’ list of absentees – players either injured, unavailable or rested – ran comfortably into double figures and they were widely expected to suffer a crushing defeat.

But they trailed only 14-13 at half-time following a try for Lake, with fly-half Sam Costelow adding two penalties and a conversion.

“I thought he (Lake) was outstanding today,” Gatland said. “I thought he was exceptional in terms of the way he played and led the team.

“I thought he showed what he is capable of doing, and I would like to think he is only going to get better as a player and a leader as well.

“There were lots of positives. I thought we did a lot of good things.

“There are things for us to work on in terms of staying in the moment and making sure we are switched on all the time.

“We were under the pump a bit early on with those two yellow cards, but we managed our way through that and I thought going in at 14-13 was pretty positive.”

The Springboks, who are building for a two-Test series against fellow heavyweights Ireland in July, often struggled to impose themselves on a first outing since retaining the World Cup eight months ago.

There were touchdowns for centre Jesse Kriel, wings Makazole Mapimpi and Edwill van der Merwe and hooker Bongi Mbonambi, plus a penalty try, while debutant number 10 Jordan Hendrikse kicked a penalty and two conversions, before Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu added a penalty and two conversions.

For Wales, it was a seventh successive Test defeat since beating World Cup opponents Georgia, and they now face Australia in Sydney on July 6 and Melbourne seven days later.

Gatland added: “I understand how important results are, so I am quite happy for that pressure to be on me, not on the players.

“If you focus too much on the result then sometimes it can be added external pressure, rather than for us wanting players to get better as individuals and get better at playing at this level, the intensity and making better decisions.

“Our focus at the World Cup was to become a really hard team to beat, and the results will take care of themselves.”

Gatland, meanwhile, confirmed that Ospreys hooker Sam Parry left Wales’ training squad earlier this week.

Parry, who is not injured, was reported as believing he was “disrespected” by the Wales boss amid a claim it had been suggested to him he was only helping to prepare other squad hookers ahead of the Australia tour.

Gatland, who is due to name his tour squad for Down Under on Monday, said: “I was surprised he left the squad.

“When Sam came in the week before I was straight up with him, told him the situation he was in with the squad. I said that he was initially covering for Elliot (Dee) with the injury, so I was clear on that.

“I said ‘I don’t want to stuff you around, you’ve been brilliant for us when you have come in in the past, just see what happens with that’. So I am not sure how I was disrespecting him there.

“If I have upset him, there was no intention. I just would have rather he had come and seen me and said the way he felt.”