Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said he will be looking at the replay of their first Rugby Championship Test against Australia again just to check whether they should have been given more reward in the last couple of scrums and whether their chasers were obstructed in getting to the aerial ball, but he was clear that the Wallabies deserved to win and his team lost 26-28 because of their own ill-discipline.
South Africa were leading 26-25 in the final minutes when they dominated successive scrums, but referee Luke Pearce only ordered resets.
Then, after the final hooter, the Wallabies wheeled a scrum to isolate the eighthman and won a turnover penalty, which Quade Cooper slotted from long-range, on the angle, to snatch victory at the death.
It was Cooper’s seventh penalty and he also converted Australia’s try in a faultless kicking display in his first Test in four years. But it was those seven penalties conceded which cost the Springboks, according to Nienaber.
“Conceding 23 points off the tee, that sums it up, our discipline was poor,” Nienaber said.
“We scored three tries to one, but we gave them 23 points and that’s the reason we lost. We did brilliantly to get back in the game in the second half, but then we lost in the 82nd minute, again because of discipline, we conceded a penalty. Australia played well and they deserved to win.
“In our third-last scrum I thought we had good dominance, but obviously the referee saw a different picture that didn’t show clear dominance. We need to make sure our pictures are aligned with the referee’s and we knew that it would be a struggle to get our wings into the aerial contest, but it’s tough to say now if there were any line-changes, I can’t say with absolute conviction.”
The Springbok coach clearly did not want to make excuses and he also did not want to use the fact that his team have recently been released from their Covid bubble and returned to normal life on the largest island in the world, and were playing in front of a crowd for the first time since the World Cup, to justify an unfocused performance.
“We weren’t great today, we were just a bit off our game, especially discipline. It was not a polished performance, so we need to fix those things we got wrong,” Nienaber said.
“Conceding anything beyond 10 penalties in a game makes it a real grind to win and we must be smarter than giving away stupid penalties. Our scrums were fairly solid but there were two scrums which Australia got points off at crucial times – just before halftime and then the last kick.
“But it was lovely to play in front of a crowd again, it’s what the players wanted. In the first 20 minutes we were quite dominant, we had control of the game but then we lost it. We created opportunities, we scored three tries and Sbu Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am were both over the line.
“But Australia are a quality side and this is a tough place to win.”