Ellis blow spoils big day for Wales
WARREN Gatland told Wales they can improve even further for the Six Nations after watching his team seal a first Autumn clean sweep and extend their winning run to nine matches.
But flanker Ellis Jenkins – man of the match in the 20-11 victory over South Africa – looks set to miss the 2019 tournament and faces a race to be fit for next year’s World Cup after suffering a suspected serious knee injury against the Springboks at Principality Stadium.
Gatland admitted Jenkins’ blow left him feeling downbeat.
“Ellis has got a scan booked in for Monday. It looks like it might be an ACL injury which obviously isn’t good,” said the Wales head coach.
“Hopefully it won’t be too bad and we can get him back on the field as soon as possible. It was a simply outstanding performance from him.
“You really have to feel for him. It is tough to see a player who has worked that hard to get himself into the 23, and step up so well, finish like that.
“He came off the bench against Australia and we spoke about him not imposing himself enough against Tonga. I had a one-on-one with him before this game, but he certainly did everything we expected from him.
“He was deservedly man of the match.”
With Ireland and New Zealand still above Wales in World Rugby’s rankings, the last thing Gatland wants is for his team to stand still.
“South Africa was the toughest game we played this autumn. There are still aspects we need to take away and work on, such as our scrummaging and game management,” added Gatland.
“But we showed character throughout and this is a special group of players. The Welsh public should be very proud of them.
“We are building nicely ahead of the World Cup.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “The effort we are putting into games is becoming a habit.
“There are still patches we want to work on, but the character we have shown in a couple of these games, even Tonga, is the most pleasing thing.
“There is a bit of depth developing. There are still a few guys who are injured, but there are a lot of players putting up their hands.”
Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus said: “The final scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. Wales are ranked three in the world and they showed why in this game.
“We had a couple of prematch blows with injuries, but we can’t use them as excuses.
“Wales were better than us technically and tactically and they deserved to win.”
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi said: “Wales were really smart and they made us play a lot in our own half.
“Every time we got into their half, we gave away a penalty.
“I am happy with the way South African rugby is developing, but there is still a lot to do. Even so there are a lot of positives we can take out of this year.”