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What Nienaber told Springboks changing room after heartbreaking loss

By Sam Smith
Jesse Kriel /PA

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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has been reacting to South Africa’s heartbreaking loss to England in Twickenham, telling his charges that they were ‘better’ than their 2021 winning percentage suggested.

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Nienaber has also given a warning to the rest world, vowing that the men in green and gold would come back stronger in 2022.

He dubbed the narrow 27 – 26 loss to England a “spanner in the engine”.

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After the Boks had shown great grit to come back from a five-point halftime disadvantage, England flyhalf Marcus Smith converted a penalty goal in the 79th minute to give his side the victory.

The Boks outscored England in the second half – 14 points to 10 – for the 24th time in their last 28 meetings, but it wasn’t enough to give them victory this time. Instead, they saw a winning advantage squandered at the death, as they had done earlier during the Rugby Championship against Australia and New Zealand.

“This was a spanner in the engine,” said Nienaber. “It would have been lovely to end the year with a win.

“That’s the third time this year that we have lost the game when we’ve been leading by one or two points at 78 minutes, so it’s very disappointing. It’s something that we’ll have to look at and improve on.”

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The Boks ended the season with eight wins from 13 matches, scoring 334 points and conceding 224.

“I told the team in the change room afterwards that they’re better than our winning percentage this season (62 per cent), which is skewed by the loss of those close games.”

“This year was one where we always knew that we’d be finding out where we were after missing out on 2020,” he said.

“I think we can definitely improve and we’re not where we want to be. I don’t want to go into detail but there are things that we want to work on – our execution of opportunities can be better for one.”

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Nienaber praised his team’s comeback after the scoreboard pressure England applied with two first half tries but admitted they had been usually exposed by England’s attack.

“We usually only concede an average of try per match so conceding three doesn’t sit well us,” he said.

“They played well and made it a proper Test match for their home crowd, but it is very painful to have lost at the death once more.”

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi praised the mental strength of his players. “Mentally this is a strong team – to go through what we have gone through was really tough,” said Kolisi.

“But we have taken everything that has been thrown at us head-on and we kept working – but we know this game is about results and we’ll come back strongly next year.”

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