South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber believed their pre-match target of a bonus-point win by 39 points was achievable but the Springboks lost crucial momentum at the end of the first half in their 38-21 Rugby Championship win over Argentina on Saturday.
The Boks needed to win big to catch New Zealand at the top of the standings and took a 17-0 lead in the first half at King’s Park in Durban, but ultimately fell short as the All Blacks claimed the trophy.
Nienaber was left to rue a scrappy try for Argentina at the end of the opening period in which his side defended poorly and, he said, it changed the momentum of the contest.
“We had a plan and we were on task up to the 35th minute,” he told reporters. “We gave away a penalty then and they got into our half. We made a few mistakes and they scored a try just before halftime.
“That changed the momentum of the game and it made it much harder for us after that. Before then we felt the plan was working.”
Nienaber said his side’s stop-start display was not down to a lack of effort or desire to chase the imposing winning target.
“We needed to get a 39-point winning margin to win the trophy, and we all bought into it. The guys gave full effort out there, I don’t think anyone could fault the effort.
“In the end we came up short, but you can never take a win in the Springbok jersey for granted, victory is always special, so we are glad we came out on the right side of today’s result even if we didn’t get what we needed to win the Championship.”
South Africa now embark on a tour of Europe in November, where they play Ireland, France, Italy and England, the last of those matches outside of the international window.
“We play the number one and number two in the world in the first two games of the tour. So it will be challenging for us,” Nienaber said.
“We will get a good idea where we are (ahead of next year’s World Cup) on the end of year tour.”