Head Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber emphasised the challenges that the Boks face as the defending world champions advance in the world cup after a quarter-final win over France.
In a thrilling last-eight clash in Paris that saw the Boks narrowly edge past France with a 29-28 victory on Sunday, the spotlight shifted to Nienaber as he shared his post-match insights on this intense showdown.
Nienaber addressed the magnitude of the Test, acknowledging the French team’s consistency and solid teamwork on their home turf. He recognised that the outcome was uncertain until the final whistle, much like the other quarter-final battles that unfolded with late-game drama.
“The French in France, you look at their consistency, they’ve been a proper team building with good individuals,” he told reporters. “We knew it would be a proper test match. All the other quarter-finals were won and lost in the last minutes of the game.”
Regarding referee Ben O’Keeffe’s performance, Nienaber commended the Kiwi, stating that the Boks attempted to minimise the official’s impact on the game by staying focused on their own game plan.
“I thought O’Keeffe was good on the day. You would say we won and that’s why I’m saying that. We tried to take the referee out of the game – we scored four tries, and missed one or two, and one from the tee. We managed it well.”
When asked about the incident that showcased the character of South Africa, Nienaber singled out Cheslin Kolbe’s extraordinary charge-down of a Thomas Ramos goal-kick. He commended the players for their relentless efforts in the face of adversity.
Nienaber added: “Cheslin’s charge-down, you don’t see that often… We were opened up a couple of times but the scrambling, the effort the players put in was enormous.”
Despite the victory, Nienaber remained grounded, attributing some mistakes to the pressure of a knockout game. He pointed out that there were aspects that required attention and fine-tuning.
“There’s a lot of things where we got stuff wrong. The quick tap we’ve been working on for some time, we’ve not had an opportunity to use it,” Nienaber said.
“We worked on, but still there’s a lot of things we weren’t awesome at but that’s probably the pressure of a knockout game. There’s a lot of stuff we need to fix.”
Nienaber also praised the backline’s performance, considering the limited set-piece opportunities. He credited them for their exceptional use of possession and highlighted their adaptability based on the forwards’ foundation.
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