All Blacks skipper Sam Cane admits a heavy defeat by the Springboks “really hurts” as New Zealand began the Rugby Championship with a third successive loss.
Malcolm Marx turned in a superb performance in his 50th Test appearance for the Boks to start the Rugby Championship campaign with a convincing 26-10 victory in Nelspruit on Saturday.
It was as one-sided a performance as the scoreline suggests. The Boks dominated the All Blacks to force the visitors backwards with a number of physical hits, while claiming the front foot at the set piece.
“A lot of credit has to go to the Springboks and the way they played, particularly in the first half; they threw a heck of a lot at us,” Cane said post-match at Mbombela Stadium.
“We did well to absorb it but suppose it took a lot out of us and they managed to keep applying pressure and were extremely good at the breakdown led by Malcolm Marx in his 50th and that disrupted a lot of our flow.
“Their kicking game, their contestables … we knew they were coming but they probably won that battle as well.
“So, we’re bitterly disappointed. We were looking forward to playing SA over here, it has been a long time between games. To come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard really hurts.
“It’s hard when you don’t hold on to the ball for long enough and give away breakdown penalties, we were a little slow there tonight and it hurt us.”
The All Blacks were tactically directionless and played into South Africa’s hands by desperately trying to run round the pressure defence, which led to a high number of unforced errors.
Cane added: “We’ll travel down to Joburg tomorrow and look forward to the next Test and throw everything at it.
“Just to fix a couple of those areas that I highlighted: the breakdown and making sure we win more of those contestables that we’re losing.
“I can’t ask any more of the team in terms of the belief and the effort that they’re putting out there.
“We’ll fight to the last minute every time and there’s absolutely belief. It’s small margins at this level and a few small things we have to fix that can make the difference.”
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