x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hook shoulders blame

The Wales fly-half James Hook has blamed himself for the 15-20 defeat to South Africa.

James Hook of Wales is tackled by Ryan Kankowski of South Africa during the match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
James Hook of Wales is tackled by Ryan Kankowski of South Africa during the match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

CARDIFF // The Wales fly-half James Hook has blamed himself for the 15-20 defeat to South Africa despite nearly guiding his side to an unlikely victory over the world champions. The Six Nations holders had slumped to a 20-3 deficit early in the second half but Hook's four penalties brought them to within sight of victory.

However, the Ospreys fly-half, who came on as a second-half substitute for Stephen Jones, said he was to blame for the loss after his first pass of the day was intercepted by Jean de Villiers to put the Springboks 17 points clear. Hook said: "It was the worst possible start and, if I hadn't done that, who knows what might have happened. " We had a superb chance to beat the world champions in front of our home crowd and that hasn't happened much - I feel I blew it."

Wales have a miserable record against the Springboks, having beaten them just once in 23 meetings. But despite the defeat, Hook believes it is further indication that his countrymen are heading in the right direction a year into coach Warren Gatland's tenure. "I guess the positive we can take is that we ran a good Springboks side close, although that won't be much consolation for the boss or Shaun [Edwards, Gatland's assistant]," he said

"Their disappointment was obvious in the changing room afterwards. They clearly weren't happy as we wasted some good chances and just could not score. "But we're not far off from challenging the best sides in the world so at least we're building something for the future." Gatland, who described the game as "a lost opportunity" has the dilemma over whether to start Hook or Jones at No 10 for the rest of Wales' November Tests against Canada, New Zealand and Australia over the next three weekends.

But regardless of whether he starts the match, Hook believes there's one key aspect the Welsh need to change. "The glaring omission from the match was that we couldn't get across their try line which is no good for a side that prides itself on attack," he said. "And we can't continue that against sides like Australia and New Zealand or else we will get eaten alive. "Now we've got the next three weeks to build on that, our wasted chances and improving our tactics, which weren't always great.

"And hopefully we can start building something towards next year's Six Nations, although that seems a long way off right now." mmajendie@thenational.ae