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'Beaten in everything': Springboks label loss the worst since 2018

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber admitted he had no complaints following his team’s latest defeat by the Wallabies, South Africa getting walloped 30-17 in Brisbane just six days after losing 28-26 to a last-gasp Quade Cooper penalty kick on the Gold Coast. The Boks has been left ruing how they were agonisingly denied a round three Rugby Championship win but there were no ifs, buts and maybe in the aftermath of their latest loss.  

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Asked post-game about the areas of the game where the Springboks lost out, Nienaber said: “Everything. We were truly beaten, every department. We got hands down beaten in everything, defence, kicking game, attack, we just made too many errors. That is something we will have to figure out in the next week. We will have to figure it out quickly. 

“It’s definitely not the worst performance of the year – it’s probably the worst performance since 2018 when we lost against Argentina in Mendoza. That is how poor this performance was. Definitely by far (the worst). Not a great performance.

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What Siya Kolisi has to say before the round four meeting between the Springboks and the Wallabies
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What Siya Kolisi has to say before the round four meeting between the Springboks and the Wallabies

“Our defence, the last time we conceded four tries in a game was against New Zealand in 2018 three years ago so it definitely wasn’t up to standard. Even our exit game, that wasn’t up to standard. It was inconsistent. Sometimes we had a good outcome and then other times we had poor outcomes which led to points for them. No, it wasn’t a great performance.”

The Springboks were looking good for a victory when Lukhanyo Am struck for an early second-half try which put them 17-15 ahead, but that was their last score as they had no answer to a power-packed Australian finish featuring a pair of tries from Marika Koroibete. While the Wallabies conceded 17 penalties to South Africa’s ten, too many other statistics counted against them.

For instance, they conceded a dozen turnovers while they also missed 19 tackles, their figures showing just 69 completions out of 88 for a 78 per cent success rate. “We knew it was coming [the pressure the Aussies put on at the breakdown]. We prepped for it the whole week. They just overpowered us in that department. We knew it was coming and we spoke about it and not only that, we worked on it in training and it got quite heated as well. We had good plans in terms of how we thought we would handle it and we didn’t handle it on the day,” shrugged Nienaber, the Springboks head coach whose record in charge now reads five wins and three losses. 

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“We made a lot of errors with ball in hand. We made too many errors when the opportunity was on and then from a defence point of view, we just missed too many tackles. I have been involved in this squad since 2018 and this was an unheard-of performance in terms of missed tackles. It just never happens like that. If each player only misses one tackle, it’s 23 missed tackles in a game and that is probably what happened tonight.   

“A defence system is there to put a defender across an attacker. That happens the majority of the time but then you must make the tackle and no system can make the tackle for you, that is you. It wasn’t difficult tackles where there were massive decisions that had to be made. We probably had a system failure for the last one where they scored, that scrum where they hit up and then came blind on us. 

“When I looked at our reorganisation on the blindside that was an error from us, a system error. We weren’t in the right places. That is something we can fix, a system fix, but one-on-one tackles, we just need to make tackles and that is my job, to make sure they are up for it. Ninety per cent of that has to be in front of my door.”

It didn’t help either that the Springboks suffered two yellow cards. “The first one was Faf (de Klerk) slapping the ball down or playing the guy’s hands. I’m not 100 per cent sure but they felt he was in an offside position which I can’t say now whether he was or wasn’t. Jasper Wiese’s cleanout, we will have to have a look at that. Yeah, I’ll have to have a look at that. Jasper’s thing, I don’t think it was pressure in terms of going in but Faf’s might because it was after a linebreak.”

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Having lost twice in succession to the Wallabies, the world champions now face a week of massive pressure ahead of their eagerly-awaited clash with the All Blacks in Townsville next weekend, the first meeting between the sides since a September 2019 World Cup pool win by New Zealand.

“A big one, it’s going to be a massive challenge, but the nice thing is it’s nice to play our Sanzaar teams,” suggested Nienaber, whose record in charge of the Springboks is sure to come under scrutiny if two more Championship losses materialise in the coming weeks.  “You get tested differently and for us, it is a big eye-opener in terms of that and that is how big the challenge will be against New Zealand. It’s going to be a massive challenge.”

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'Beaten in everything': Springboks label loss the worst since 2018

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