The Springboks’ failure to adapt to the wet conditions cost them a big win against the All Blacks as well as a place in the 2015 World Cup final, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
The weather was always expected to be a factor at the business end of the 2015 World Cup in England. The best teams were always expected to adapt.
New Zealand certainly ticked that box in the semi-final at Twickenham on Saturday, particularly in the second half. As the rain came down, it was the All Blacks who excelled in the departments of tactical kicking and handling.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer didn’t try to hide his disappointment in the aftermath. The Boks went down 20-18 in what was an epic game of rugby. There were some positives to come out of that performance. And yet the negative of losing a semi-final and bowing out of the title race is impossible to ignore.
‘We didn’t adapt to the conditions in the second half,’ Meyer said. ‘I’m very proud of the way the players put their bodies on the line. The leaders implemented the game plan perfectly and the youngsters really impressed. But we still lost. That will never be good enough for the Boks. We had a chance to win and we should have taken it.
‘If you look at what’s happened in past games between the two sides, we’ve always played well in first half and then fallen flat in the second,’ Meyer continued. ‘I felt that our fitness was where it needed to be at this World Cup. In the end, it came down to adapting to the conditions.
‘Maybe New Zealand are more used to playing in the rain. They adapted well and their No 10 and 15 controlled the game superbly.’
Vice-captain Schalk Burger let out a frustrated sigh before taking his seat at the post-match press conference at Twickenham. Burger also felt that the Boks let an opportunity slip.
The blindside flanker blamed himself for one individual mistake that culminated in a try for Beauden Barrett in the second half.
‘I’ve seen this movie before and it’s bloody horrible,’ said Burger, who was part of the 2003 and 2011 squads who were knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage. ‘We gave a big effort, but it really hurts to lose like this.
‘Losing those lineouts at the end didn’t help. But I think the turning point was when I carried the ball and then lost it in our 22. They scored a try and Dan Carter kicked a conversion. Those seven points really hurt us.’
The Boks will remain in England for the third-place play-off next Friday. Meyer said that he doesn't care about whether the Boks play Argentina or Australia in that match, or the match at all.
‘It’s hard to pick the side up mentally for that third-place play-off,’ he said. ‘That game is like kissing your sister. For me, winning the World Cup is all that matters.
‘Who will win the second semi-final? I’m not the guy to ask right now. Some people think I know nothing about rugby, and maybe tonight they’re right. So, maybe you should ask the guy in the street who will win that game.’
Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images