Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber says the Bulls were more desperate for a win in their game against the South Africa A side at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
CAPE TOWN – While it was “sad” for him to say it, coach Jacques Nienaber felt that the Bulls were more desperate than the South Africa A side that lost 17-14 at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
And it didn’t make sense for that to be the case. The SA A players were pushing for Springbok spots for next week’s first Test against the British and Irish Lions at the same venue, as a number of first-choice players such as Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi are still completing their Covid-19 protocols, and have not been cleared to play as yet.
So, one would’ve expected the SA A side to be at their best and try to impress Bok head coach Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, but they just lacked rhythm throughout the match.
The Bulls forwards managed to disrupt their lineouts, and got stuck in on defence as well. Then flyhalf Johan Goosen added the stardust in the final quarter with two pieces of individual brilliance that led to tries for Keagan Johannes and Johan Grobbelaar, while Chris Smith knocked over the winning penalty.
“I thought the Bulls were good, and they were desperate. We knew they were going to be desperate. I’ve coached teams where we faced international teams as a club, and obviously your desperation levels are through the roof,” Nienaber said afterwards.
“There, the first finger must point to us as the management and myself as the head coach. Obviously did some big things wrong in the build-up to this game. So ja, the Bulls were good, and sad to say, they were more desperate than us. Like I said, it starts with me.”
Asked if he thought that the Boks would be ready for the first Lions Test, the defence guru said: “This is exactly what we wanted. Not the loss! But another game, and to give the guys an opportunity to stake their claims for the Test, which is in a week’s time.
“The result didn’t go our way, not what we hoped for. But I think we got a lot of answers in terms of the questions we had over certain players and individuals. The Bulls are the best franchise in South Africa, and hats off to them for giving us this game. We needed this game to get some answers, and I felt we got a lot of them today.”
To his credit, Bulls coach Jake White didn’t get carried away with the victory. As a former national coach, he knows what SA A would’ve tried to achieve on Saturday, and he felt that the defeat won’t have much of an effect on the Bok prospects of beating the Lions next Saturday.
“To be fair, it just reaffirms everything I believe in coaching. When you put a side together, you need time with them and you need combinations to gel. We probably have had much more time with our combinations than what the SA A side had together,” White said.
“That was always expected – whether or not they could gel quickly, and whether or not we could rely on the time we have been together.
“You could see at the end there, we were composed by the fact that (our) group of players had played together. The group that ended for the SA A side was a new group of players.
“You’ve got to take it into context. Same as the Lions losing to SA A, the Test series is very important. Morné Steyn came to our change-room, and he said this was what they needed – they needed a team to front up physically, they needed a team to play a certain way.
“I thought we did those two things well. We played a different style to what we usually play in the Currie Cup. We tried to do a couple of new things that they hadn’t seen.
“Our pack, a lot of young forwards, and they really fronted up nicely today. I don’t think it is any indication of what the Test series will be like next week.”