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Candid Springboks confession: 'Australia beat us with our own game'

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has explained the painful review that has taken place since last Saturday’s Rugby Championship loss to Australia, admitting that the Wallabies had done to South Africa what the Boks usually do to other teams. Beaten by a last-gasp Quade Cooper penalty in round three, Nienaber’s team endured a very different kind of agony in the round four rematch as they comfortably defeated 30-17 in Brisbane.

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It was the third loss for the Springboks in the eight-match Nienaber era and with back-to-back matches versus the All Blacks next on the schedule, no corners have been cut by the 2019 World Cup winners in an effort to get things back on an even keel for rounds five and six. 

“We had a good look at how we played and we were brutally honest,” admitted Nienaber, who has made two changes to his starting pack for next Saturday’s round five encounter with the All Blacks in Townsville. “There were some things that were good. 

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How the Springboks can bounce back this weekend against the All Blacks
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How the Springboks can bounce back this weekend against the All Blacks

“I thought our lineout mauling was good, I thought our scrums were good, I thought we were good under the high ball. We will have a session tomorrow [Wednesday] and will probably touch on the defensive side of things. There were one or two errors made there that we will fix and rectify going on to this weekend. And then just revisiting what our soul is, what we do as South Africans and what we enjoy doing and probably going back to that.”

Asked to explain what he meant by the reference to the Springboks soul, Nienaber added: “If you look at what Australia did, they probably beat us at our own game. I don’t think they even made 70 passes in the whole game so they came with a completely different plan, they changed completely what they did in the previous games, the three French games and then the New Zealand games. 

“I do think we probably got caught up in that and we had a good look at that in terms of what our soul is and I do think we played double the amount of rugby that Australia did. Not to say that you don’t play rugby but you must play rugby when it is on, when the opportunity is there, and we probably pushed it a little bit when the opportunity wasn’t on, when they were set on defence and maybe when there was kick space in behind, we probably got caught up and forced things in terms of carries. 

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“And then when the opportunity was there to run we probably kicked when we should have done another option. I know Australia changed 100 per cent, made a U-turn in terms of what they did in the past versus what they did against us on the weekend. They beat us with our own game.

“The errors that we made were errors that we don’t normally make… the key thing for us is to stay focused. The new challenge for us is almost to get over the result that we had against Australia and focus on New Zealand. We know we are going to have to be at our best and the work we have put in in the last two days was excellent. We are aligned in terms of a team and in terms of strategy. We have had a good prep up to now.”

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Candid Springboks confession: 'Australia beat us with our own game'

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