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Nienaber encouraged by Boks’ fighting performance in second half

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, one of SA's try scorers, goes on the run in the win over Wales at Loftus on July 2 2022.
Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, one of SA's try scorers, goes on the run in the win over Wales at Loftus on July 2 2022.
Image: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber admitted the first half was not up to standard but was satisfied with his charges’ spirited comeback to beat Wales 32-29 at Loftus on Saturday.

Playing in front of a passionate and intimidating crowd of almost 52,000 spectators, the Boks overturned a halftime deficit of 15 points to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, which moves to Bloemfontein on Saturday.

At halftime, the Boks had only one penalty to show for their efforts but they returned from the break with more purpose to score four tries and land a last-kick penalty.

The three tries were scored by Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx and Cheslin Kolbe and SA also benefited from a penalty try. Damian Willemse, who was moved up from fullback to flyhalf at halftime, converted the last-gasp penalty.

Willemse’s penalty shattered the 29-29 deadlock in the dying minutes as the Boks broke the hearts of the gallant Welsh side who, at some stages, looked to be on their way to their first victory in SA.

The Boks were their own worst enemies in the first half as a catalogue of errors allowed Wales to score two tries and put themselves in a potentially match-winning position.

“I’d much rather focus on the second half,” Nienaber said. “The second half was pretty much the performance we were looking for.

“Things didn’t go well for us in the first half; we didn’t start well. We started with intensity and a good attitude, but our execution let us down and we’ll have to work on that.”

The comeback was founded on a maul that finally began to function, leading to tries for hookers Mbonambi and Marx and a penalty try from a collapsed maul, with wing Kolbe dotting down the fourth.

“We came back from 18-3 and I said to the guys afterwards that they never gave up,” Nienaber said.

“To score 29 points in the second half was great. They stayed calm and composed and got the job done.”

Bok captain Siya Kolisi noted the composure of the team.

“There wasn’t any panic. At no point did we think that we weren’t going to come back into the game.

“We know what we are capable of and stuck to it. We went maul after maul. We wanted it to work at the beginning and it didn’t, but in the end it got us through.”

The teams reconvene in Bloemfontein on Saturday for the second Test with the Boks likely to put in some work on their kicking game.

“Our kicking game wasn’t functioning,” Nienaber said.

“It’s probably the one reason we struggled to get out of our half. It’s probably the one thing we will have to improve.

“The 29 points we scored in the second half was really good, but the first half didn’t go as we planned.

“We created some opportunities but we didn’t capitalise and Wales created two great opportunities, which they finished off.”



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