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Nienaber: We know where we are now and what we have to build on

Nienaber: We know where we are now and what we have to build on

South Africa fell to a fifth Test defeat of 2021 but head coach Jacques Nienaber insists they have grown a great deal after a lost year.

The Springboks looked to have edged past England in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final when Francois Steyn put them in front with five minutes remaining at Twickenham, but Marcus Smith’s last-gasp penalty ensured it was England who ended the Autumn Nations Series unbeaten.

But having not played a single Test in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nienaber is confident his team can build on what they have shown.

He said: “I said to the guys in the changing room that this is a team that is better than whatever the win percentage is. But in saying that, I think we lost a lot of development in 2020 because we didn’t play any Test matches.

“We always said this year is for us. Let’s see where we are compared to where we were in 2019. I’ve made no fuss about it in saying that I don’t think we’re there yet.

“Now we have played a full year of international rugby, we know where we are and we know what we have to improve on and now we have to build. We have two years, or one and a half years leading up to France 2023 and there’s a lot of things we would need to work on to get better.

“From my side, it’s obviously disappointing and if you think it’s the third Test this year that we lost this way. In the 78th minute we were leading by two points or one point or three points. In the end we don’t finish the game. That is something we will have to look at and improve it.”

Two years after South Africa were able to overpower England in Yokohama on their way to a 32-12 win and a third world title, this was a much tighter affair with England clinical in the first half to open up an 11-point lead.

And Nienaber was gracious in his praise for England after they got the better of South Africa at Twickenham for the second time in three years, both times by a single point.

He added: “I thought they were going to be a quality team. In this whole week we spoke about them being a quality team.

“I thought they played well and they gave a proper Test match for their home fans here at Twickenham. It’s a great rivalry for us, the Springboks here against England at Twickenham. In the last two Test matches I’ve been involved, in 2018 and now, it’s been a one-pointer, we knew it was going to be a grind.”

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