SA 'A' verdict: Ill-discipline and damaged reputations
Players and coaching staff alike will return from the South African ‘A’ team’s two-match European tour with reputations marred.
SA ‘A’ completed their tour on a disappointing note with a humbling 18-26 loss to a scratch Bristol Bears team at Ashton Gate this past Thursday.
Coach Mzwandile Stick admitted a lot of introspection is required after a trip that produced more questions than answers for the national team’s coaching panel.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” Stick said after the second loss on the winless tour.
“We started well, and we were in control, but [our lack of] discipline and unforced errors allowed them back in the game.
“They capitalised on it, [especially Callum] Sheedy at No.10.
“We had an opportunity to take the game away from them.
“In the beginning our set pieces were good and we played a nice territorial game in the opening quarter.
“But we ended up playing too much rugby in our half and there were some poor errors from our side in the wider channels.”
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Flyhalf Feinberg-Mngomezulu also expressed his disappointment with the result and admitted his side contributed to their own downfall.
“Ill discipline let us down as we gave them needless opportunities,” the young back said.
“For the opening period, we were in control of the game but then let them back into it.
“After that, they seemed to win most of the scraps, but it’s disappointing as we feel it was more of a case of us losing the game than them beating us.”
Stick said it was hard to find any positives from the tour – following defeats to Munster and Bristol.
He added that the most disappointing aspect of the tour is that they selected a talented group of payers, which included a good mix of youth and experience, but they were unable to play according to the standards they set for themselves.
“When we lost to Munster, I was honest enough to say there were positives from the game,” the Springbok assistant coach said.
“[Against Bristol] there were times we got into their 22 and stuck to the simple options, things happened.
“I don know why we panicked later on in the game and tried to force things.
“When we play the ball in front of our forwards we were rewarded through our big, physical ball carriers.
“I’m not sure why we moved away from that.”
Stick admitted the results “damaged” all the reputations of those involved in the tour.
“It is not only the players,” he said, adding: “As coaching staff, we also need to go look at ourselves and see what we could have done better.
“Sometimes you learn the hard way.
“Hopefully the youngsters will learn from their mistakes.
“Despite this, they have bright careers ahead of them.”
Stick also touched on the lack of preparation time ahead and during the tour.
“If we have a similar tour like this again, perhaps we need to have a one-week camp to implement a few things before we leave because we only had one or two training sessions before the first game and three before the second game.”
SA ‘A’ captain Thomas du Toit was equally dejected: “The result was very disappointing for us because we take a lot of pride in the way we play.
“We were not clinical enough with the ball in hand.
“We made a lot of unforced errors and individual mistakes, and that cost the team.
“That said, the match could certainly have turned out a different if we had cut out some of the individual errors. Like any game, there were positives and negatives we can take from it.”
The team will return to South Africa, while Stick and a few players will remain behind in the UK to join the Springboks ahead of their Test against England next weekend at Twickenham.
* Additional reporting by SARU