The Springboks can’t blame the Covid-19 pandemic for their first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions, says coach Jacques Nienaber.
CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says they can’t blame Covid-19 for the defeat they suffered in the opening game of the three-Test Series against the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
The Springboks’ preparation was hugely impacted by a number of positive cases in their camp, with some key players only rejoining team training on Monday. Their second Test against Georgia was also cancelled due to positive cases in both camps.
Their only other game since their World Cup success back in 2019 was when the Boks, in SA ‘A’ guise, played against the Lions in Cape Town almost two weeks ago.
The Springboks were well in control in the opening half, but it was a complete turnaround after the break, as the Lions produced a stunner of a comeback after being 12-3 down at half time.
The Boks’ discipline really let them down, while they Lions also just upped their performance, something that the hosts struggled with.
They were pinned in their own half, struggled to handle the Lions’ aerial game, and just conceded too many penalties after the break.
“We lost it in the air. I think we got the reward in the first half, but in the second half it went their way,” Nienaber said.
“It’s well-documented that we didn’t play much rugby together and we can’t look at Covid as an excuse and say that’s why we didn’t dominate in the air in the second half, because we did in the first half.”
Nienaber added that they have some cler work-ons ahead of the second Test.
“I can’t say our attack was narrow, we knew it was going to be a kicking game. We prepared for it and it went well in the first half, but our execution wasn’t as good as it was in the first half.
Nienaber was confident that the Boks could still save the Series, which is going to continue in Cape Town.
“It is definitely salvageable, we have to salvage it. There are definitely things we can sort out, like the kicking game and the aerial contest…things that worked in the first half and gave us good field possession.”
The Springboks next face the Lions on Saturday, July 31.