‘Boks beaten by better team’

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Boks’ World Cup semi-final loss to the All Blacks:

'What was key to this game is that at 12-7 [to the Boks] at half-time, those next few minutes when Jerome Kaino was off the field was crucial for South Africa. We needed to come out of the change room and score three points at least during that period, but the psychological lift it gave to the All Blacks to come through that and only be 12-10 down was enormous. Then Bryan Habana got a yellow card, and you could sense then that it slipped away. The margins are so small in games like that. They controlled that period of play so well.

'Then when we were down by five points and we were managing to get back into the game, there was a turnaround penalty for a neck roll from Victor Matfield, which I also felt was a key turning point. When it's raining like that, such little things can make a big difference. You're not going to lose by 20 points, but three points can be crucial. And at that moment the three points we could have got would have been vital … It's ifs and buts, but you've got to give credit to New Zealand for the way they played in dreadful conditions in the second half, and they played a style of rugby that didn't suit them, but they handled it very well … Full credit to New Zealand, and although it was a brave performance from the Boks, they just came up short. 

'When we go back and look at this game, we're going to say we were unlucky and so on. But in the end the All Blacks scored two tries, and we didn't score one … They finished the game in our 22, and it didn't matter how many times we kept the ball, we were never going to score from there in those sort of conditions.

'You’re talking about the importance of experience, it was about the calmness of key [All Blacks] players … No matter what mistakes they made, you never thought they were getting down on themselves about it. It's because they've been in that sort of situation so many times, and most of the time they come out on top. There’s a deep belief in this [All Blacks] team that they can come out on top at the end, and I’m not sure we have that same belief. In the end I think the belief was more with New Zealand than South Africa, even though we gave as much as we could … We also never really threatened to score, and we lost four lineouts, and one particularly critical one towards the end. 

‘A problem with South African rugby is sometimes that we make the linebreak but there isn't anyone there on the player's shoulder up in support … What impressed me about the All Blacks team is that they tried to attack us through a variety of ways, they brought Julian Savea in off the wing, they played a lot off ball off nine, and brought in the backs, but then they went to a pick-and-go game. When that wasn't working they tried grubbers, so they kept on varying their game. Our defence was outstanding, but that's why they are the world's best team. They don't just have one game plan. They've got a whole variety of attacking options, and I think the Boks were lucky it was a wet game, that did help us. It was also unlucky that we didn't come out on top, but we were beaten by the better team.'

Photo: Chris Lee/World Rugby

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Nick Mallett