Johannesburg – Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was full of praise for his team’s never-say-die attitude after they dominated France in Marseille on Saturday, and were unfortunate to be on the wrong side of the 30-26 score line.
The Boks surprised many with their adventurous approach while their goal-kickers were on song and Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Kerk and Damian Willemse between them never missed a shot at goal.
Both teams scored two tries in the match, with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse crossing the chalk for the visitors as the side clawed their way back from 13-0 down after Bok loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit received an unlucky red card in the 12th minute, while replacement forward Deon Fourie was yellow carded with 10 minutes to play.
“It hurts deeply because the players showed a lot of attitude and put in a great effort and we certainly can’t fault that,” said Nienaber.
“The effort was extraordinary and the reality is that we lost by four points against the second-ranked team in the world at home and the previous by three points against the top-ranked team (Ireland).
“We are facing Ireland in the pool stages of the World Cup and we could face France or New Zealand in the quarter-final, so we have to keep working hard as a team.”
Kolisi shared his coach’s sentiments and he lauded his teammates for fighting until the end: “We kept on working for one another after the red card and we are proud of that.
“It’s horrible to lose and especially like that. The guys played well and they kept on fighting, but France played a little better.
“They are a great side and they showed it by being unbeaten in 12 games. They have a strong pack and backs that can take the opportunities, and they had a great atmosphere behind them in the match.”
Looking ahead at the Rugby World Cup that will be hosted in France next year, Nienaber said although France would be among the favourites, the competition was wide open.
“They (France) are certainly close to being one of the favourites,” said Nienaber.
“The last game they lost was against Australia in 2021 and they have won 12 on the trot now. I don’t think there is any other team that has come close to that streak recently.
“That said, one could see by Italy’s win (against Australia earlier on Saturday) that there is a lot of competition in world rugby at the moment.”
The Springboks will depart for Genoa on Sunday to begin preparations for their third Test on tour against Italy.