WARREN Gatland is eyeing one last Wales high after the crushing disappointment of the World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa.

The head coach's final game in charge will be against New Zealand on Friday (kick-off 9am) rather than England in the final on Saturday after the agonising 19-16 loss to the Springboks.

Handre Pollard's 76th-minute penalty denied Wales in their bid for a first World Cup final and condemned the class of 2019 to the same fate as their predecessors in 1987 and 2011.

The squad don't head home and must lift themselves for one more fixture, the third/fourth play-off against the All Blacks in Tokyo.

It's not the way that Gatland wanted to finish after 12 trophy-laden years at the helm but the 56-year-old, who will take over as Chiefs boss in Super Rugby after handing the reins to Wayne Pivac, wants to end on a high with a first Welsh win against New Zealand since 1953.

South Wales Argus:

"My last game in charge against the All Blacks will be monumental," he said. "As a coach, it's the only team I haven't beaten with Wales. It would be nice to be able to achieve that.

"We might have to give some players a rest because there is only a five-day turnaround.

"The All Blacks are probably hurting as much as we are. The third and fourth play-off is a tough game to play but you have to give it the respect it deserves."

Tighthead Tomas Francis and wing George North joined an already lengthy injury list after suffering first-half injuries against the Boks.

Wales stood up to the South African onslaught to be level until the closing stages despite being without the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins Cory Hill, Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe.

South Wales Argus:

"It was a tough encounter. We knew it was going to be an arm wrestle and we stayed in that arm wrestle," said Gatland.

"I thought there was a momentum shift until the last four or five minutes and we started to get going, but unfortunately we were penalised and the game got away from us.

"I am not taking away from South Africa and I thought they played really well. They were willing to take us on up front.

"I am very proud of the boys in never giving up. With a little bit of luck and a bounce of the ball it might have been different.

"We are very disappointed but I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in this World Cup and what this group of players have done. We can hold our heads held high and leave Japan with a lot of respect."

After the nightmare World Cup of 2007, and the group stage exit that led to the sacking of Gareth Jenkins, Gatland has guided Wales to the semi-finals in 2011 and 2019 either side of the 2015 quarter-final defeat.

"We punch massively above our weight when you consider the playing size of numbers in Wales so I'm really proud of these guys," said Gatland.

"They gave 100 per cent. It was a tough, physical South Africa team that we played against. Our guys didn't take a backward step and I can only be proud of them for that.

"At 16-all it was pretty close and you're sort of dreaming about the three points being the other way."