Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber struck a defiant note after Saturday’s nerve-jangling 13-8 defeat to Ireland, claiming the defending champions can still win the World Cup.
South Africa lost their opening pool match to New Zealand in 2019 before going on to lift the Webb Ellis trophy and Nienaber believes the Boks can do it again.
“In 2019 did you think we could win?” he said at the post-match press conference at the Stade de France.
“We are in this competition to win, everyone is here to win. We played against the number one team in the world and we lost by five points.
“We had a chance in 79th minute to win but we didn’t take it. The bottom line is Ireland were better but the margin is very small.
“We must work at things that didn’t work and if we can fix them and have a bit of luck we can win the World Cup.”
The match, which saw tries from Mack Hansen for Ireland and Cheslin Kolbe for South Africa, arguably hinged on the lack of a reliable goalkicker in the Springbok ranks.
Fly-half Manie Libbok kicked a first half penalty but missed a penalty and conversion in the second half. Faf de Klerk also failed with two penalties, one of which hit the post.
Intle – it’s a thing of beauty 👏
Cheslin Kolbe dots down as the Springboks get their first try of the match ✅
— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) September 23, 2023
Nienaber, however, felt the game was lost in other departments.
“We missed a couple of points off the tee but that’s not the only reason (South Africa lost). We had two good opportunities in the first half we didn’t take,” he said.
“In the first half we lost the ball under the posts and at the end we had a great opportunity with the maul.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi was equally adamant that the wayward kicking wasn’t the deciding factor in such a tight game.
“We didn’t lose the game in one department,” he said.
“We gave away 12 penalties, often at the breakdown. We created such good opportunities and we got to the 22 and we didn’t take them.
“In a game like this that is what happens. Some things went well. The intensity of the game was exactly what we needed.
“Ireland were quicker than us and able to get those opportunities.”
While victory all but assured Ireland of their passage into the quarter-finals, South Africa must now beat Tonga in their final pool game next weekend to ensure a likely last-eight meeting with hosts France.
“Whoever won this game, it would take a bit of pressure off the last round,” said Nienaber.
“That is now on us. We need to beat Tonga to get out of the pool, that’s the sole thing to focus on.
“We have an eight-day turnaround. If we slip up against Tonga we won’t even get to a quarter-final.
“If we start thinking about France now we will be getting ahead of ourselves.”