Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘The margins were extremely tight’, says Bok boss Nienaber about French win

Looking ahead to their semifinal against England on Saturday Nienaber admitted the team would prepare for another tight encounter.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber admitted that the margins were extremely tight and that it took a massive team effort to hold on for a nail biting 29-28 win over France in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal at the Stade de France on Sunday night.

It was a ridiculous back and forth match that saw the hosts get off to a flier, only for the Boks to battle back into the lead and then France sneak into a 22-19 lead at the halftime break.

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They extended that to 25-19 early in the second half, before an Eben Etzebeth converted try and monster Handre Pollard penalty put the Boks 29-25 up.

A 72nd minute Thomas Ramos penalty then bought France back to within a point, but the Boks superbly managed the closing moments, most of it spent in the French half, before Kurt-Lee Arendse hoofed the ball into the stands to seal a famous win.

Credit to France

“I must give credit to the French first of all. We knew it was going this tight. Everyone knew it was going to be a big battle against two good teams and fortunately for us we were on the right side of the result,” said a hoarse Nienaber after the match.

“The margins were extremely tight. So credit to our players, they really stuck in there right until the end.”

It was a messy second half for the Boks, with them having to manage almost 10 minutes with 14-men after Etzebeth picked up a yellow card on the stroke of halftime for a head clash, while a few players went off for head assessments (HIA) which also disrupted things.

“It was tough. Especially with the yellow card we had to come up with solutions. But it is credit to the experience of the squad that we managed that well. Stuff like that happens, they have been here before and they found solutions in the game,” said Nienaber.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game. With the HIA it is important to make sure that our players are safe, so luckily things worked out for us.”

England semi

Looking ahead to their semifinal against England on Saturday Nienaber admitted the team would prepare for another tight encounter.

“It is going to be massive. It will be a nice challenge and in knockouts anything can happen, like it did tonight. I followed the England game on the bus here. They had a healthy lead and then Fiji came back and pushed it right until the end,” explained Nienaber.

“So that’s what I think these knockouts are going to be. It’s going to be small margins right until the end of the match.”

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