Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber quickly put behind him his team’s record victory over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (52-16) and focused on improving as the Rugby World Cup kick-off moved a day closer.
South Africa’s 36-point victory surpassed the previous best of 22 points (34-12) recorded in 2007, but Nienaber admitted that better was needed to progress in the Rugby World Cup.
“We have to get better going into France,” he said. “We’re on the side of the draw that’s knockout from game one and just to get out of our pool will be a challenge.
“Everyone would know that it’s our aim to go back-to-back and retain the World Cup and we can’t hide from it. We want to be the second team to successfully defend it and the bonus would be that we’d the best first team to win four world cups.
“It’s a massive thing that we’re playing for, and you can talk around it but that’s our goal – and to achieve it we’ll have to get better.”
Nienaber conceded that the Wales team was not the strongest that could be fielded and that other sides might have punished the Springboks.
“I think it’s fair to say, and without any disrespect to Wales, they could have picked a more experienced side,” said the Bok coach.
“Like we did against Wales in Bloemfontein last year, they probably wanted to see if their fringe players can go to the World Cup. From our perspective we knew we were going to get a young guy against us; a desperate guy playing against a Siya (Kolisi) and that’s what we got.
“In the first half for 20 or 30 minutes it really was a grind and we had to be clinical in our approach to wear them down.
“That’s what we wanted, and that’s what we expected and because we didn’t know them so well and we had to find solutions in the game – for instance I thought their kicking game in the first half was excellent. We had to find solutions because we didn’t know the wings and the scrumhalves so well, so I thought that was great preparation for us.”
Captain Siya Kolisi made a successful return from injury, playing 40 minutes and providing the scoring pass for the first try by Malcolm Marx.
“It felt amazing,” said Kolisi. “I didn’t have any fear going into the game. Our training sessions prepared me a lot.
“I remember I asked the guys to come at me a little bit softer, but Pieter-Steph came to me and said, ‘trust me, you’re fine’. Those kinds of things you can’t buy – having a guy who has come through things like that.
“As a team we did well; I thought our discipline could be a lot better especially in the first half, but we wanted to stay disciplined in the system and I think we did that well. But next week is a different challenge and we’re going to have to get up again.”