Boks: Work to do despite NZ win – Nienaber

Rugby

South Africa still have work to do, and improvement to find, if they are to win the Rugby World Cup again, Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said after the team had humbled New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday.

The Springboks thrashed New Zealand 35-7 in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up fixture — the biggest loss for the All Blacks in their 102-year Test history — scoring five tries through captain Siya Kolisi, wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, hookers Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi, and flanker Kwagga Smith in a performance that will surely put rivals on notice ahead of the global showpiece in France.

But Nienaber noted the Springboks had allowed several chances to go begging against New Zealand.

“This was a proper test, and it was exactly what we wanted before the World Cup,” Nienaber.

“Wales [whom South Africa defeated 52-16 in Cardiff last Saturday] play a different style of rugby to New Zealand, who pride themselves on their high-intensity and high-tempo game, so it was good preparation for us.

“That said, we have hard work ahead before the World Cup. We had several opportunities to score tries which we didn’t convert, so we’ll zoom in on that in Corsica and hopefully we can improve on that before our opening match.”

Commenting on the late injury-enforced withdrawal of Willie le Roux, who was replaced by Smith after failing to recover sufficiently from rib injury sustained in training, Nienaber said: “It was an unfortunate incident and we didn’t want to risk Willie.”

Smith replacing Le Roux saw the Springboks have a seven-one split on the bench in favour of the forwards, but Nienaber noted: “With the way games have been playing out, there are times when your forwards have to play in the backline, and this offered us the same option.

“It gave us a taste of how to manage things if we perhaps get an injury in a match. Obviously, the least risk would be selecting a five-three split, and a six-two split holds a little more risk, and then a seven-one split is the most-high risk.”

New Zealand coach Ian Foster paid tribute to the Springboks.

“You couldn’t help but be impressed with what they did,” he said. “They really got stuck into us tonight.

“Their physicality and their set-piece was superb, and they had a massive game at scrum and line-out time. That was a big difference.

“Both teams put a lot into that game, it was a great spectacle. Two weeks out from a World Cup it is going to prepare both of us really well. It was a massive performance from South Africa and they deserve credit for it.”

Despite the scoreline, Foster believed the game would be beneficial to the All Blacks as they head to France.

“I think both teams needed that game,” he said.

“We certainly did.

“We lost the cohesion when we were put under pressure, but I thought our defence in the first 20 minutes was outstanding, and if we had more discipline in key areas we could have counter-punched.

“But they forced us into errors and that caused us problems.”

New Zealand next play play in the Rugby World Cup opener against France, at Stade de France in Paris on Sept. 8, while South Africa open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Scotland in Marseille two days later.

– Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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