Nienaber lauds the leadership in his team after the Boks convincingly beat the British & Irish Lions
Coach Jacques Nienaber lauded the performance of the leadership in his team as the Springboks convincingly beat the British & Irish Lions 27-9 to level the three-Test series on Saturday.
The teams will return to Cape Town Stadium for the decider on Saturday.
After trailing at halftime, the Springbok forwards got the upper-hand and kept the Lions scoreless in the second half as they gradually extended their range of influence on the clash.
The Springbok forwards grew an arm and a leg as the match wore on, but that has everything to do with the fact that their Bomb Squad was deployed and the investment in selection yielded some bang for their Bok.
After the Lions had the better of the first half, especially at the line-out and on the deck, the Springboks increasingly came to grips with their opponents in the scrums, winning penalties in that area in the second half.
The sheer force they took into the collisions also yielded the desired result and, over time, those small gains became building blocks that translated into points.
From the scrum penalties, for instance, they could kick for touch where their line-out packed potency in the second half after Lood de Jager joined the fray and Franco Mostert moved to the back row. The Boks had a few target men and they soon profited from their driving mauls as the Lions back-pedalled in every sense.
The Lions, who were adept at stopping the maul early in the game, had no answer in the final quarter in scenes reminiscent of the Springboks' dominance in the Rugby World Cup final of 2019.
But it required calm heads, especially in the absence of Duane Vermeulen and then Pieter-Steph du Toit, who departed the scene injured after 20 minutes.
“The players in our leadership group are very experienced, and we are in a fortunate position as coaches to have so many of them,” said Nienaber.
It was particularly important in a week in which it was easy to lose focus, given all the noise the series has generated as a result of pronouncements that have emanated from within the respective camps.
“Obviously Rassie (Erasmus) had something on his heart. It is something we discussed,” said Nienaber about Erasmus' now viral video recording in which he highlighted the officials' shortfalls in the first Test.
“That was off-field stuff. We as a team knew we had to focus on rugby. We had a comprehensive review. We were hard on each other.
“Sometimes we get things wrong, sometimes we get it right. We just focused on rugby,” said the coach.
That the Boks were able to deliver the performance they did after just two weeks' training is remarkable.
Captain Siya Kolisi, who was one of the outstanding contributors, said the team had to refocus after the first Test. “We knew what mistakes we made and how not to repeat them,” said Kolisi, who added that they would continue to strive for improvement.
He warned though that the series is far from over.
“There is still a lot to play for, and we did not have a perfect game – next week will be another battle. Last week’s Test was good for us in that it gave us game time. Another week did wonders for us,” said the skipper, who admitted the Bok legs were “stretched” in the second half last week.
Nienaber said the extent of Du Toit's shoulder injury may only reveal itself after 48 hours.