Nienaber hails Boks after Scotland win

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  • Post published:September 11, 2023

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber praised his forwards performance in their 18-3 victory over Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opener on Sunday.

During a closely contested match held at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, the first half concluded with a score of 6-3, with two penalties successfully converted by Manie Libbok and one by Finn Russell.

The momentum shifted following the successful tries scored by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt-Lee Arendse within a three-minute period between the 47th and 50th minutes. This resulted in the South African team effectively preventing any counterattack from the Scottish team, establishing their superiority on the scoreboard.

“It could have been a slippery one, Scotland are a good side and are not number five in the world for nothing,” said Nienaber, who took over as head coach from Rassie Erasmus, who moved to director of rugby after leading the Boks to glory in Japan four years ago.

“We were only leading 6-3 at half-time after having some dominance. They are a nuggety team and hats off to them. We had to grind the win out.”

According to Nienaber, the strategic adjustments made by the South African rugby team in the second half were not overly complex.

“Rugby is not a complicated sport. If you get a good platform from the forwards, then you can create momentum that can create some space and then you have some backs who can make some magic,” he said.

Captain Siya Kolisi admitted his team had been “a bit slow to get into the game and take opportunities”.

“In the second-half we took our opportunities from the set-piece and I am proud of the way the boys did that.”

The outcome of the match has left Scotland coach Gregor Townsend expressing his profound disappointment. This result has heightened the stakes in Pool B, a group that comprises the highly esteemed Ireland, Tonga, and Romania, in addition to Scotland.

“We were slow to get going, but we built into the game. There were opportunities, but not many in our attacking game.

“South Africa took possession and got some points and we never got the accuracy to really trouble them on the scoreboard.

“We only scored three points, that’s unusual for us, credit to South Africa’s defence.”

Townsend also expressed scepticism regarding the judgement of the television match official in refraining from scrutinising a direct collision between the South African centre and the Scottish No. 8, transpiring mere moments into the initial half.

“There are still inconsistencies,” the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions fly-half said, without wishing to further comment.

“I’m frustrated by that but more frustrated by our own performance.”

The captain of the Scottish team, Jamie Ritchie, possessed a clear understanding of the challenges that awaited his team.

“All the games are must-win now,” he said, adding that the Ireland clash, at the Stade de France on October 7, “was always going to be a really tough game for us”.

Ritchie added: “I’m really proud of how we fronted up physically… but we didn’t execute under pressure.

“As a group we feel like we’ve got a lot to play for, we have three massive games ahead of us and the pressure is on us to perform.

“It’s a setback in terms of we didn’t get the result, but the good work we’ve done over the last few months hasn’t gone.”

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