South African coach Jacques Nienaber believed their pre-match goal of winning on bonus points by 39 points was achievable, but the Springboks lost decisive momentum late in the first half in their 38–21 win over Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
Boxing needed to win big to catch up with New Zealand at the top of the standings and they took a 17-0 lead in the first half at Kings Park in Durban but ultimately lost as the All Blacks took the trophy.
Nienaberu had to regret Argentina’s failed attempt at the end of the first period, when his team defended poorly, and, according to him, this changed the course of the fight.
“We had a plan and we worked until the 35th minute,” he told reporters. “Then we converted a penalty and they hit our half of the field. We made a few mistakes and they scored a goal shortly before the break.
“It changed the pace of the game and it got a lot harder for us after that. Before that, we felt the plan was working.”
Nienabeer said his team’s stop-start display was not due to a lack of effort or desire to pursue the imposing win goal.
“We needed 39 points to win the trophy and we all believed it. The guys did their best, I don’t think anyone can blame their efforts.
“In the end, we failed, but you can never take a victory in the Springbok shirt for granted, a victory is always special, so we are glad that we got on the right side of today’s result, even if we did not get what we I should have won the championship.”
South Africa will now embark on a European tour in November where they will play Ireland, France, Italy and England, the last of those matches outside the international window.
“In the first two games of the tour, we play first and second in the world. So it will not be easy for us,” Ninaber said.
“We’ll get a good idea of where we are (in the lead up to next year’s World Cup) at the end of the tour at the end of the year.”
In another dressing room, Argentina captain Julian Montoya says his team must learn from their mistakes if they are to move forward as a team and laments poor discipline in the 38-21 South Africa Rugby Championship loss in Durban on Saturday.
Wins in New Zealand and at home in Australia have made this championship arguably the best in southern hemisphere history for the Montoya team, but it could also be an example of what could have been if they had maintained their discipline at key moments in the campaign.
They crushed the Springboks in the second half and the score may have flattered the hosts, but 22 missed penalties, four yellow cards and two penalty attempts mean that Argentina is fading under pressure.
“We saw that when we did what we wanted, we were in a match and anyone could win,” Montoya told Sportzshala Scrum. “We have to study, I have to study. We can no longer talk about the same thing (discipline).
“We can’t give out easy penalties and due to penalty accumulation we get yellow cards. We should not just say that we should improve, but do it.”
“First you look at yourself, then you continue to build and continue the process. There were a lot of good things and a lot of other things to fix.”
Hooker felt it was a missed opportunity in Durban as his team was three points clear of Boxing in the last quarter of the game.
“We respect them, but we need to trust ourselves more and know that we can beat them. In fact, there was a time when we dominated a lot.
“We must continue like this – every minute counts, every action counts, every decision we make on the field counts. But I am very proud of the team for the way they have responded to different situations.”