Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Springboks not far off the top after loss against France

Nienaber was happy with an impressive turnaround from the Bok goal kickers, as they nailed every shot at goal.

The Springboks are not far off the top of world rugby, despite following up their three point loss against Ireland in Dublin, with a four point loss against France in Marseille on Saturday night.

Despite going down to 14-men for most of the contest due to a 10th minute red card to flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, with the numbers levelled up in the 48th minute after Antoine Dupont was also sent off,  the Boks battled manfully to take a 26-22 lead into the final 10 minutes of the match.

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However a yellow card to replacement Deon Fourie and a few dubious calls in the closing stages conspired to see the French rally to clinch a valuable 30-26 win in the end.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber was proud of the fight of his team, and admitted that despite the results they were well placed ahead of next year’s World Cup although they still have plenty of work ahead of them.

“I’m not going to share the tactical plans, but the pack put in 10 percent extra and I think that’s why the loss hurts that much. They kept us in the game, and although we were 13-0 down (at a stage), they kept on fighting,” said Nienaber.

“We’re four points behind France, who are the second-best team in the world and three points behind Ireland, who are the best team in the world. France are the Northern Hemisphere (Six Nations) champions, so that’s where we are right now.

“We’ll have to work extremely hard because we have Ireland in our World Cup pool. There’s also the possibility of playing France or New Zealand in the quarter-finals, so there’s a lot of hard work for us. That’s where we are and that’s the reality.”

Looking at the game against France, Nienaber claimed that they were better prepared, having gone into the game against Ireland a bit undercooked after a number of their players had been rested after the Rugby Championship and missed out on URC game time after games were cancelled.

Impressive turnaround

He was also happy with an impressive turnaround from the Bok goal kickers, as Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk and Damian Willemse combined to nail every shot at goal throughout the match.

“I think there was a lot more cohesion within the team. Our guys hadn’t played a lot after the Rugby Championship, especially when two of the URC games got cancelled, where a lot of the guys would have got some game time,” explained Nienaber.

“So I thought we were a little bit cold (against Ireland), but no excuses in terms of that game. I thought the opportunities that we had this weekend, we took.

“In terms of the goal kicking, I mentioned last week, and everyone asked do we take it seriously and are the guys practicing and they are, we measure it. The way they kicked last week in training probably didn’t reflect, but when the way they kicked this week in training did reflect and sometimes it just goes that way.”

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