Jacques Nienaber says the Boks are still building and should only get better as he hailed the response of his players after losing the first Test, while also crediting the impact of the bench in Saturday’s rematch against the Lions.
The Springboks won 27-9 after scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half, with Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am scoring second half tries, and Handre Pollard adding 17 points with the boot.
According to Nienaber, the Boks also won all the important scraps in a highly physical and tough Test. The Bok coach said the way the players responded after last week’s defeat – as well as how they took responsibility to improve – made his job easy.
“The players in our leadership group are very experienced, and we are in a fortunate position as coaches to have so many of them,” said Nienaber.
“Last week we lost the kicking game in the second half and the way the players responded during the week to adjust and make better decisions was really great. Sometimes I feel more like a facilitator than a coach with all the great inputs we receive from the guys.”
Nienaber said they were overwhelmed by the support shown by the Bok supporters, many of whom showed up outside the team hotel earlier in the day and lined the route to the stadium.
“The support was amazing, we had so many people outside our hotel from early in the afternoon,” said the Bok coach.
“On the way to the stadium, the roads were full of our supporters. I am so happy we could do it today, it was for them as much as it was for us.”
The Bok coach said the players are ever improving, as they are now getting proper training time together, following the isolation forced by COVID-19 cases while they were still in Johannesburg.
“We are still growing as a group,” said Nienaber.
“We only had two full weeks of training – we are still building, and we will get better, as long as we stay humble and work hard. The Lions came with new plans this week, and we adapted to that. This time we were ready, last week we were not.”
Nienaber said an injury assessment on Pieter-Steph du Toit will be done early in the week. Du Toit was replaced by Kwagga Smith in the 20th minute and the Bok coach praised the impact of the South African replacements.
“Last weekend we lost the second half 19-5, this time we were pretty dominant. We had a good impact off the bench and that helped us a lot,” said Nienaber.
For Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, the win was important as the players knew they needed to rebound in convincing fashion.
“Our focus was intentional this week – we knew what mistakes we made and how not to repeat them,” said Kolisi, who added that they will continue to strive for improvement.
“We had the right attitude to rectify that. It started at training.
“There is still a lot to play for, and we did not have a perfect game – next week will be another battle. Last week’s Test was good for us in that it gave us game time. Another week did wonders for us.
“This time it was not the system that changed, we won the scraps. We need to be better in certain areas, but we managed to control the controllable.”