South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber bemoaned his side’s poor first half after they scraped a 32-29 victory against Wales with the last kick of the game at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but praised their character in overturning an 18-3 halftime deficit.
The Springboks were well below par in their first game in eight months, but used their powerful pack and six replacement forwards in the final 20 minutes to force the tourists to concede four yellow cards and a penalty try in the match.
“The first half did not go our way, I would prefer to focus on the 28 points we scored in the second half. Our kicking game was not functioning, it is something we will have to improve,” says Nienaber, who replaced misfiring flyhalf Elton Jantjies at the break.
Fullback Damian Willemse took over the number 10 role after that and the Boks started to look more assured with ball in hand. He also kicked the winning penalty after the hooter.
“Damian did well. He is a ‘project’ for us and has been since 2018. Slowly we are giving him more game time and experience, more confidence in our system and what we would like him to do.
“Elton has played something like 30 minutes this whole year with injuries. We needed to get some minutes into him and I’m happy we could do that.”
The second test will be played in Bloemfontein next Saturday, with the finale in Cape Town on July 16. Nienaber expects more of the same from Wales, but better execution from his side.
“We started the game with intensity and a good attitude, but our execution let us down. That is something that will get better.
“Hats off to Wales, we thought it would be like this, it always is when you play them.”