Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has expressed his disappointment in the 17-14 defeat South Africa A suffered by the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, saying the result did matter in the bigger scheme of things.
A much-changed SA A side could not replicate same spirited effort from their 17-13 victory over the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday night against the men from Pretoria, who edged the win through a late penalty goal after both sides scored two converted tries.
“We wanted this match for a number of reasons, and I am happy that we managed to play today,” said Nienaber.
“We needed three games to get our ducks in a row before the Test series and we got that. The result was not what we had hoped for, but a number of questions were answered, especially with regard to the readiness of individual players and their readiness for selection.
“I wanted the guys to stake a claim for selection for next week’s Test and, unfortunately, not everyone did that but I am not going to discuss individuals – any comments on them will be emotional, because we are hurting.
“As a team, the performance was not there, and I blame myself for that as well. The lack of dominance from our pack was not what we had expected. With the late confirmation of the game, we also did not do any analysis on the Bulls and that showed, while I did expect a better set-piece platform.”
Nienaber praised the Bulls on their performance: “The Bulls were good and desperate, and they showed how much they wanted it. The disappointing part is that they wanted it more as a team.”
Nienaber said most of the players in the Springbok squad managed to get valuable game time in the last few days.
“As there were places up for grabs in the Test team, we will do a proper review,” he said.
“At the moment, we have two hookers out due to Covid protocols [Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni], and we needed to see what Joseph Dweba and Fez Mbatha can do.
“And another couple of players got some valuable game time – Damian [de Allende] played 60 minutes, Kwagga [Smith] 80, and Damian Willemse had another run at centre.”
Nienaber said they will set their sights on the first Test from Sunday.
“We will look at physical readiness and consider Covid protocols before we select our team and, in that regard, will be guided by our medical team.
“We will consider a number of factors before deciding to select players who have not played for the Boks in the last couple of years, like how long we have worked with them, their training stats and factors other like that.
“Some players who have been in our mix will slot back in more easily than others. But we will have a proper medical feedback session tomorrow, so will make a call who will be in line for Test selection.”