Rugby World Cup 2011: Warren Gatland rues missed Welsh chances

Toby Faletau dives over to score Wales' try
Toby Faletau dives over to score Wales' try

Wales coach Warren Gatland rued his side's missed chances in their opening World Cup defeat by South Africa.

Wales led 16-10, but lost out to Francois Hougaard's try and Morne Steyn's conversion.

Gatland said: "I'm very proud of the effort the players put in. We did everything but win the game. It is about taking your opportunities."

And scrum-half Mike Phillips believes Wales can still "go all the way" in the tournament.

Gatland added: "We didn't start well and held off them in those first couple of minutes. But after [that] we dominated territory and possession and played some great rugby.

"We put ourselves in with a chance to win but in the end we weren't quite good enough.

"The players will be devastated but we had a chance - a [Rhys Priestland] drop-goal in front of the posts, [James] Hooky had a penalty.

"But we got a bonus point out of it and we will take a massive amount from it. I thought we might have had a penalty in the first half and Francois Steyn said in the tunnel at half-time he thought it had gone over.

"But that's what competing at the highest level is all about.

"When you get those chances in front of their posts you have got to put them through.

"It's just that little half a per cent we've got to learn from.

"We have been knocking on the door for a while and if we get over that hurdle it will be good for us for the rest of the tournament."

Gatland said his players would be "devastated" by defeat, but added: "I'm proud of the effort the players put in but we didn't win the game.

"We put ourselves in with a chance to win but I think we weren't quite good enough."

Wales captain Sam Warburton said: "We're bitterly disappointed.

"We came so close. We were quite confident all week, but we came up just short.

Rhys Priestland is devastated after Wales' defeat by South Africa
Rhys Priestland is devastated after Wales' defeat by South Africa

"We played really well and we didn't quite get the victory and in a tournament like this, it's all about getting the win."

Hook kicked 11 points and 20-year-old Tongan-born number eight Toby Faletau was Wales' stand-out performer as he scored their only try.

"Toby's a fantastic player - he's only 20 years old but he's just getting better and better," said Warburton.

South Africa skipper John Smit said: "The nerves for this game were unbelievable because of the pressure of what this game meant for the pool.

"Our greatest reward is that we have come through by a point, and fought our way back from a pretty sticky situation.

"Wales played some good rugby and kept us in our half ... but we took the chance when we got it. Close game, nice to get through it."

Wales' Phillips said: "These are the fine margins at the top level of sport. Unfortunately we have come off second best. It is very hard to take that.

"The performance was superb against the current world champions. We pushed them all the way and maybe we should have won.

"But we have to be positive going forward. We gifted them the first try - we were a bit soft and didn't get out hard enough maybe.

"Typical of us, we came back and there were some great individual performances and as a collective, we were outstanding, I thought.

"It is a young squad and the first time on the big stage for a lot of players, they have done so well.

"We can be proud of ourselves and going forward, we can still go all the way in this competition."