While Jacques Nienaber conceded the Springboks were far from their best in the one-point win over Argentina, he was impressed with the world champions’ response under pressure.
The Springboks were forced to weather an Argentinian storm at Emirates Airline Park to claim a 22-21 victory last night, after taking a 15-9 lead into the break.
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Despite a dominant performance from the pack in the first half, the Boks spent long periods penned in their own territory in the second half.
Speaking after the match, Nienaber said the Boks would benefit from having been put through a high-pressure situation when it comes to defend their World Cup title in France, where they are in a tough pool with Ireland and Scotland.
“We’re going to experience similar situations at the World Cup and to manage it in the way that Duane [Vermeulen] did at the end with the yellow card was very good,” said Nienaber. “You have to grind it out at a World Cup, especially when you look at how close the teams are currently. The World Cup will be incredibly close and you can be in a situation where you can go into shell shock.
“The amount of attitude the players had in defence was outstanding; the amount of attitude they had in their ball carrying was outstanding. We made a couple of mistakes with tactical and technical stuff but that [is] the easy stuff we can fix.
“But making it personal with the defence and the ball carrying is what I was incredibly proud of. Tonight wasn’t the greatest performance, but it was good to grind out the win.”
Nienaber admitted that the constant chopping and changing of combinations has contributed to the inconsistent nature of the Springboks’ performances in the 2023 Rugby Championship, but said they will be more consistent when the squad is settled.
“The easiest way to get cohesiveness is in team selection and that’s probably where we put the team under pressure,” he said.
“Every week they’ve had a different prop, a different hooker, a different rhythm so that’s almost the nice thing, as we take them out their rhythm because of the way we have chopped and changed in terms of team selection, and as we get closer to the World Cup there will definitely be more consistency in selection.
“On Tuesday we said if we can get a victory tonight it would be nice to make some changes,” he added. “The main things for us is to spread the load and make sure that we are match fit and match ready, and everyone has had some minutes and been under pressure before we leave for the World Cup.
“We said from the outset that Argentina are [a] tough team and they proved that today. That said, I am pleased with the way the players ground out the result.”
The Springboks next face Argentina in Buenos Aires in the first of their three World Cup warm-up games. The Test will be the final game before Nienaber names the final World Cup squad on August 8.
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