Coach Jacques Nienaber lauded the Springboks for digging deep to outlast the Six Nations champions in the latter stages of the Test in Cardiff on Saturday, which ended South Africa’s eight-year drought in Wales.
The world champions broke the dam wall in the second half in pouring rain at the Millennium Stadium after keeping the scoreboard ticking with penalty goals in the first half, after which Wales led 12-9, and then finishing the match with one try compliments of hooker Malcolm Marx.
Nienaber and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said although there were a number of things they needed to work on after struggling to capitalise on a few try-scoring opportunities in the trying conditions, the victory was fantastic for the team’s mindset with an eye on the 2023 World Cup in France.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and there was some over-eagerness as we lacked accuracy at times in terms of using our opportunities,” said Nienaber. “But this was a valuable win for us because we knew these are the same conditions we can expect in the 2023 World Cup.
“I thought the maul try we scored late in the game was the moment that the game really changed. It was big for us, and we probably won the game right there, so I have to take my hat off to the forwards for making it happen.”
Kolisi praised the replacements for their huge contribution in closing out the game and said: “The players who came off the bench were huge today, and we know that our replacements are always one of our weapons – they were very special today.
“Frans [Steyn] made an impact after he came on early for Damian Willemse, and the same can be said for all the forwards, as well as Cobus [Reinach] and Elton [Jantjies] when they came on.”
Nienaber also praised the starting pack for stamping their authority early on and said: “It’s also important to never forget the ‘slow poison’ the starting players put into their opposition’s legs earlier in the game.
“We may not have gotten the reward from our drives in the first half, but I think the pack laid a great foundation, which opened up the opportunity for the guys who came on. They still had to use that and kick on, and I thought they did that very well today.”
Commenting on the injury status in the team immediately after the match, Nienaber said he would have a clearer picture within the next two days once the medical staff complete their assessments.
“I spoke to our team doctor after the match and it seems that there aren’t any worries around [prop] Trevor Nyakane injury-wise, but we will probably know more in the next 48 hours.”
The Springboks will travel to Edinburgh on Sunday and will begin on-field preparations for the second Test against Scotland on Monday.
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