Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber believes that his side’s kicking woes were not the only reason for their Rugby World Cup Pool B loss to Ireland.
South Africa were defeated 13-8 by the number-one-ranked side in the world in a thrilling match in Paris.
In the closely fought encounter, kickers Manie Libbok and Faf de Klerk collectively missed 11 points from the tee, with the former wayward with a penalty and a conversion and the latter missing two penalties.
Springboks missing the mark
Despite the woeful 20 per cent success rate, Nienaber was not willing to stick the loss on the inaccuracies from the kicking tee.
“Hats off to Ireland, they were better than us on the day,” Nienaber said after the match.
“We missed a couple of points off the tee; I wouldn’t say that’s the sole reason for not getting across the line.
“In the first half alone, we lost two balls close to the try line and had another two opportunities later on, so that’s four opportunities, plus those points off the tee, but I won’t say it is only goal-kicking.”
The inaccuracies of Libbok and De Klerk has fans and pundits baying for Handre Pollard to return to the starting line-up, which is a possibility against Tonga after he was called up to the squad in place of the injured Malcolm Marx.
Many expected the 2019 World Cup-winning marksman to be picked for this clash, but it was not to be. But will he come into the equation going forward?
“We [coaches] will have to discuss,” Nienaber said.
“Lots of things go in to team selection. We will get the medical status after 24-48 hours and then we will go through our team selection process as normal.”
Ireland’s breakdown excellence
Nienaber believes that Ireland’s breakdown was a big reason that his side were on the wrong side of the result and saw plenty of improvements for his charges.
“I think that’s one area where Ireland were exceptional tonight,” he said of Ireland’s breakdown.
“That’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we didn’t get momentum.
“We will just train harder and get better at it. We knew it was coming, it is something they do.
“We made some plans during the week that we thought would negate their tactics at defensive breakdowns, but obviously, it didn’t work consistently.
“There are lessons we will take out of this game. We will have to make new plans on how to deal with that better.”
France and Dupont
South Africa are on track to finish in second place in Pool B, provided that Ireland beat Scotland and the Boks claim a win over Tonga.
That would likely set up a quarter-final date against France, but Nienaber is not looking that far ahead.
“We have not analysed France yet,” he said.
“We’ve got Tonga next. For us to start thinking about France would be getting ahead of ourselves. We will just focus on Tonga for now. We have an off week after that, so we have time to prepare for whoever we play in that quarter-final.”
The Bok boss did sympathise with Les Bleus captain Antoine Dupont, who is doubtful for the rest of the tournament.
“Dupont’s injury is like us losing Malcolm Marx; it is a loss for them, but I believe he could be back at the back end of the tournament,” he said.
“I hope he is because you want the best players playing in a World Cup.”