Warren Gatland: Wales can compete with best in the world

Ken Owens scores Wales' third try
Ken Owens scored Wales' third try against South Africa

Warren Gatland says Wales' second Test performance against South Africa proves they are good enough to compete with the best sides at the 2015 World Cup.

Gatland's side were narrowly defeated 31-30 and are still to beat the Springboks in South Africa.

The defeat to a late penalty try broke Welsh hearts, but Gatland was upbeat.

"We know that on our day, if we get the bounce of the ball, we are good enough to compete with the top teams in the world," he said.

"We're probably a little bit off New Zealand at the moment, but we've demonstrated with South Africa and Australia in the last couple of years it's [about] getting over the line.

"It's just making sure that you get that elusive victory over a Southern Hemisphere team, and then mentally it just changes that whole focus."

Australia and hosts England will be Wales' major pool opponents in next year's World Cup with Gatland's side hoping to improve on their fourth place at the 2011 tournament.

The penultimate pool spot will be decided in Saturday's Oceania qualifying play-off in which Fiji host Cook Islands in Suva with a further play-off place still up for grabs.

"We feel with the preparation and time together, we can go into an incredibly tough pool for the World Cup and look forward to it with some confidence," Gatland added.

Wales were leading 30-24 with three minutes remaining when referee Steve Walsh awarded a penalty try after Liam Williams shoulder-charged Cornal Hendricks just short of the try-line, something which Williams has since apologised for.

Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips and Dan Lydiate look dejected after Wales are denied a first ever Test win in South Africa.

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Relive Wales' agonising last gasp defeat

Yet the result was a great improvement on the first Test in Durban, which

"We were caught out in the first half, particularly [in the first Test]," said Gatland.

"We were caught out in the first Test in Australia a couple of years ago, and New Zealand [in 2009] in the first Test as well.

"But the boys have got comfortable with the pace and intensity and have come out and proved their performances in the second week... the guys responded brilliantly.

"As a coaching team, we're proud of the way they responded because at the end of a long season they could have capitulated.

"They didn't do that, and that shows to me this group of players took their opportunity.

"They are proud Welshmen and proud to put that jersey on.

"And that's all you can ask as coaches."

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