Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber likened his team’s hard-fought 22-21 Castle Lager Rugby Championship victory over Argentina on Saturday to a typical Rugby World Cup arm wrestle.
The Springboks had to weather a fiercely committed onslaught from Argentina in front of 44 357 fans at Emirates Airline Park, when they spent long periods penned in their own half in the second half on the way to securing a second victory in the truncated competition.
Nienaber praised his team for not buckling under the pressure after the yellow carding of Damian de Allende (for a deliberate knock on) with seven minutes remaining. The Pumas scored their two tries in that period, but the second (to close the winning margin to one point) came long after the siren had sounded.
“We’re going to experience similar situations at the World Cup and to manage it in the way that Duane [Vermeulen] did at the end with the yellow card was very good,” said Nienaber.
“The amount of attitude the players had in defence was outstanding; the amount of attitude they had in their ball carrying was outstanding. We made a couple of mistakes with tactical and technical stuff but that the easy stuff we can fix.
“But making it personal with the defence and the ball carrying is what I was incredibly proud of. It wasn’t the nicest game, but it was good to grind out the win.”
Springbok skipper Vermeulen admitted that the team had made their task more difficult for themselves with ill-discipline.
“It was a stop-start game for us, and I think our discipline wasn’t great,” said Vermeulen.
“Sometimes penalties just happen and then you get those avoidable penalties that you shouldn’t give away and that was tough for us. If you take away those avoidable penalties it would have been a better game for us.
“You’ve got to give credit to Argentina. We saw how they won against Australia and against us in Durban last year they came back with a real onslaught and scored a couple of late tries. They play for 80 minutes. and we had to keep up but we’re happy with the win and we’ll take it from there.”
Nienaber said that he expected the team’s performances to become more consistent once the squad became more settled.
“The easiest way to get cohesiveness is in team selection and that’s probably where we put the team under pressure,” he said.
“Every week they’ve had a different prop, a different hooker, a different rhythm so that’s almost the nice thing, as we take them out their rhythm because of the way we have chopped and changed in terms of team selection, and as we get closer to the World Cup there will definitely be more consistency in selection.”
However, he said that opportunities would be provided to players who had yet to feature prominently in the season.
“On Tuesday we said if we can get a victory tonight it would be nice to make some changes,” he said.
“The main things for us, is to spread the load and make sure that we are match fit and match ready and everyone has had some minutes and been under pressure before we leave for the World Cup.
“We said from the outset that Argentina are tough team and they proved that today. That said, I am pleased with the way the players ground out the victory,” he added.