‘Boks have one more big week in the tank’

Springbok flank Kwagga Smith has vowed that the team will leave everything on the pitch when they meet New Zealand in their closing Rugby Championship clash this coming weekend.

The Springboks held a 17-16 lead against the All Blacks with three minutes left to play, but a late penalty goal by Jordie Barrett crushed their hopes of a strong fightback in the competition following back-to-back defeats by Australia.

Both teams scored a try and kicked four penalty goals apiece and, in the end, it was a successful conversion by the All Blacks that edged them to victory.

The Springboks travelled to Gold Coast this past Sunday for the closing match of the competition in what will mark the team’s 17th successive week together, with Smith saying they were as determined as could be to wrap up their campaign with a victory.

“We definitely have what it takes mentally and physically to push through for another week,” said Smith.

“We were hungry going into Saturday’s game after last week’s performance [the 30-17 defeat by the Wallabies], and I think we played well, but we were a little unlucky.

“We have a good squad here and everyone is positive. It’s the last game before we have a bit of a break, so we’ll give it our all and make sure we leave everything on the pitch.”

Springbok centre Damian de Allende admitted that suffering their second defeat in three matches from a penalty goal in the dying minutes was bitterly disappointing, but he was pleased with the team’s effort to work their way into a position to come away with a win.

“I thought we controlled the tempo quite well,” said De Allende.

“We got ourselves into the game nicely and I thought we were quite dominant with the tempo. That said, we are heart-broken because we feel we deserve a lot more, but that’s part of the game.

“Against the British & Irish Lions we got that last penalty, and against Australia it went against us, and it did again tonight, but we’ll continue working hard, and hopefully next time it will turn in our favour.”

De Allende was also encouraged by the vast improvement in the Boks’ defence after conceding four tries in their second match against Australia in Brisbane.

“Our defence was much better than last week and the week before – it was solid, and I felt we dominated our hits,” said De Allende.

“We had a good chat this past week and got our detail right. The All Blacks were good in their set-piece attack, and I think we adjusted well.

“Obviously, they pose a great attacking threat, and they did got around us a few times, but I thought we scrambled very well tonight and tried to do it for each other.

“The effort and everything else was there, unfortunately we just fell short.”

Smith was equally disappointed about the result, but he said it was special to start against the All Blacks.

“The number on my back doesn’t matter because of the gameplan we play,” said Smith.

“It was great to have an opportunity to start against the All Blacks again and it was a good fight against them. We were unlucky to fall short, but that is the game of rugby.”

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Craig Lewis