LONDON (Reuters) – South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber says the platform for the 27-13 victory over England in their autumn international at Twickenham on Saturday was laid by a powerful performance from his forwards in which they subdued the home team’s pack.
The Springboks scored tries through wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and lock Eben Etzebeth, and dominated in the scrums and the aerial battle as they claimed a first victory against their hosts at Twickenham since 2014.
“It’s a cliche but the forwards were outstanding,” Nienaber said. “They gave us the platform and the backs used their opportunities. It was a team effort but the forwards laid the foundation.
“It was a stiff challenge and there are a lot of things you need to get right on the day. We all saw what England are capable of last weekend (against New Zealand). From the coaching box, we were never comfortable.”
The match was played outside of the international window, depleting the Boks as a number of their regular players were not released by their clubs. Nienaber says they viewed this as an opportunity to test their depth ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“This match is always a good one for us being outside the window. It was the same in 2018 when we played Wales. I can say now there were a couple of players that maybe weren’t up for (World Cup) selection but are knocking on the door.”
The Boks played the final 20 minutes with 14 players following a red card for prop Thomas du Toit, but captain Siya Kolisi believes the fact they were able to keep using their set-piece as a weapon was crucial.
“There is nothing we have not faced this year,” he said. “We had a red card before (against France), so we were prepared for it. We kept going and worked harder for each other. Keeping eight forwards on made it easier for us, so it was a great call from the coach.”
The Boks head home with a modest 50% win record in the autumn series following narrow defeats to Ireland and France, but Nienaber believes they do so as an improved side.
“It is probably one of the most enjoyable four weeks we have had in terms of the working relationship between the players and staff,” he said.
“We were creative in terms of the plans we made, we stuck with it and gave it a good go. The players showed great ownership in all four games.”