VIDEO: 'Goal-kicking did not cost us the game'
South African coach Jacques Nienaber played down the significance of his team’s ever-declining goal-kicking standards, as they suffered a crunching loss to Ireland in a crucial Pool B match in Paris on Saturday.
Ireland is just one point away from securing a place in the tournament play-offs, beating reigning champions South Africa 13-8 in a thoroughly absorbing match at the Stade de France.
Nienaber was in a defiant mood, when questioned about the proverbial elephant in the room.
His team’s poor goal-kicking has been a constant theme of media briefings this year and the Paris horror show did little to ease the pressure – as the Springboks managed a paltry 20 percent success rate off the kicking T.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok kicked a first-half penalty, but the missed a penalty and conversion in the second half.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk also failed with two penalties, one of which hit the post.
(WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber addresses the ‘elephant in the room’ – his team’s sub-par and erratic goal-kicking…)
“Hats off to Ireland, they were better than us on the day,” Nienaber told @rugby365com – deflecting attention away from the obvious issue.
“We missed a couple of points off the tee,” he downplayed the 11 points in missed kicks.
“I won’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 tryline – probably a metre away from the line.
“We had another two opportunities later on in the game.
“Those four opportunities, plus those points off tee, are the reasons why [we lost].
“However, I won’t say it is only goal-kicking.
“I know you guys [media] will probably say that, but there were opportunities we had – especially in the first half – when we lost the ball underneath the posts.
“At the back end of the game – the last maul; – we had a great opportunity.
“I say again, hats off to Ireland – they were better than us.”
Nienaber was not willing to commit to the question if Handre Pollard now comes into the selection equation.
“That we’ll have to sit down and discuss.
“There’s lots of things go into team selection.
“We will get the medical status after 24 to 48 hours.
“We have an eight-day turnaround,.” he said of next Sunday’s encounter with Tonga in Marseille.
“Then we will go through our team selection process as normal.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi was equally adamant that the wayward kicking wasn’t the deciding factor in such a tight game.
“We didn’t lose the game in one department,” he said.
“We gave away 12 penalties, often at the breakdown.
“We created such good opportunities and we got to the 22 and we didn’t take them.
“In a game like this that is what happens. Some things went well. The intensity of the game was exactly what we needed.
“Ireland were quicker than us and able to get those opportunities.”
While victory all but assured Ireland of their passage into the quarterfinals, South Africa must now beat Tonga in their final pool game next weekend to ensure a likely last-eight meeting with hosts France.