Despite putting in one of their best performances against the All Blacks in many years, as they cruised to a 26-10 win at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber believes they are still not the finished product.
The visitors were absolutely battered and bruised up and down the field over the entire match, and were lucky to score a consolation try near the end after the home side had been reduced to 14-men due to Kurt-Lee Arendse’s red card.
But although it was almost the perfect start to the Rugby Championship for the Boks, Nienaber says there is still plenty to work on.
“All we could do was pitch up with intensity and try to be accurate in what we plan and I thought we did that well,” admitted Nienaber.
“But the big thing for us is I don’t think we are the finished product yet. We did a good assessment after the Welsh series and I think we have improved. I think we have built on stuff where we didn’t have good growth in the Welsh series.
“I really think we are slowly building our game. We always want to win every single game, but for us it’s important to keep on improving our game and keep on achieving the goals that we have set out for ourselves.
“But if you play the All Blacks and you don’t bring intensity you’re probably not going to have a good game against them. I thought it was a step up from Wales, but it’s not the finished product yet. We can still build on it and we are still building our whole game.”
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Nienaber was however thrilled with the team’s execution of their kicking game, which was perfectly on point against the All Blacks and kept them pinned in their own half for the majority of the match.
Flyhalf Handre Pollard, young scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and fullback Damian Willemse all enjoyed impressive performances with their out of hand kicking and contributed to the game plan going exactly as they wanted.
“I thought that the kicking game was really good. For us we don’t see the kicking game as a way to release territorial pressure. We have a contestable kicking game and we see it as a method of attack. I really thought the wingers were brave today in the air,” said Nienaber.
“The kicking game doesn’t just revolve around the kicker and the chasers, everybody has a role to play. Literally all 15 and I thought every single guy on the field fulfilled their role to make sure our kicking game functioned. I thought that was a positive aspect of the game.”