South Africa have room for much improvement, coach Jacques Nienaber said after he handed several players their first international outing of 2023 in a comprehensive 52-16 Rugby World Cup warm-up win over Wales in Cardiff.
One of those was captain Siya Kolisi, who was superb before being withdrawn at halftime in a pre-planned substitution having returned from a serious knee injury picked up in April.
Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and prop Ox Nche were others who came through with flying colours ahead of a final warm-up clash against New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday, before they face Scotland in Marseille in their opening World Cup Pool B fixture on Sept. 10.
“We have to get better going to France,” Nienaber said. “We are on a side of the draw that is knockout rugby from game one. We have to be on form just to get out of our pool.
“We are trying to give everyone match minutes and I was really pleased for the three guys today. But we have to get more cohesion before we play Scotland.”
The Springboks ran in eight tries in a dominant display in which they bossed the set-piece and stifled Wales with their rush defence. But Nienaber was not happy with their discipline.
“Giving away controllable penalties is the stuff we need to sort out. In certain things we were clinical, at the scrums we got some penalties, but we struggled under the high ball and had to find solutions to handle that.”
He is not getting carried away by the scoreline against a depleted Wales, but admits the world champion Boks have a single goal in France.
“Our aim is to defend the World Cup, we can’t hide from that,” he said. “We want to be the first team to win four World Cups. You can try and play it down, but that is what we want to achieve.”
Kolisi could not hide his delight, and perhaps relief, at being back on the field after his participation at the World Cup at one stage looked a long shot.
“It felt amazing, I didn’t have any fear going into the game,” he said, adding the Boks’ preparation for the test against a largely unknown Wales was key to victory.
“It is not luck. How we work together and how we prepare is key. We spend much, much more time in meetings studying video clips than on the training field,” he said.