Head Coach Says South Africa Have ‘Bigger Issue’ Than Goal-Kicking

When questions about why the Springboks lost were posed, the simple response was that South Africa missed 11 points from the tee in their 13-8 Rugby World Cup loss to Ireland on Saturday. While scrum-half Faf de Klerk missed two penalties, out-half Manie Libbok missed a penalty and a conversion.

The missed opportunities for tries, in contrast, are a more urgent concern, according to South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“In the match against Ireland, we had four chances to score within one metre of their goal line, but we squandered them all. Nienaber uttered “four.”

“That, for me, is a much bigger issue that we have to sort out. You can’t get yourself within one metre of Ireland’s try line and then you butcher four opportunities.”

jacques nienaber south africa goal kicking

23 September 2023; South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber before the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

South Africa’s goal-kicking woes could be eased with the selection of Handre Pollard. The 29-year-old – who was called up to the Springboks squad following an injury to hooker Malcolm Marx – has been selected at out-half for Sunday’s clash with Tonga. He missed out on the original squad due to a calf injury. The game will be Pollard’s first international in 13 months.

“That’s why we went with a five-three split [on the bench],” said Nienaber.

“If you look at Handre, he hasn’t played top-level club rugby since the first weekend in May. I think it’s about 19 weeks ago and in that 19 weeks, he’s only played 30 minutes of club rugby and that was in the Premiership Cup [for Leicester Tigers] the other night.

“There’s a good possibility that he probably would struggle to get through an intense game, a good probability that he might cramp up. That’s why we went with the five-three and have Manie [Libbok] on the bench just for cover.

jacques nienaber south africa goal kicking

23 September 2023; Manie Libbok of South Africa walks away from the tee as teammate Faf de Klerk prepares to kick a penalty during the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

“In that 13 months that Handre wasn’t available for the Springboks, there were 16 test matches and we won 75 per cent of those.

“We lost four, and of the four test matches we lost, two were against Ireland – who are the number one team in the world and everybody is struggling against them, they haven’t lost a test match since the one against New Zealand in Auckland.

“Then we lost to New Zealand in Auckland this year, and the other test match that we lost where those two guys were steering the Springboks and driving the team in the 10 jersey, was against France in Marseille where we got the red card. In three of those test matches it was very close, even this past one (against Ireland), up to the 78th minute there were two points in it.

“Yes, we are not consistent off the tee. But the guys that stepped in, I don’t think they did a bad job.”

jacques nienaber south africa goal kicking

31 July 2021; Handré Pollard of South Africa in action against Dan Biggar of British and Irish Lions during the second test of the British and Irish Lions tour match between South Africa and British and Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile

Nienaber stated that he anticipates Pollard to put in a “realistic performance” this weekend.

In the real world, he remarked, “I think that’s where we all have to stay.”

He last played for the Springboks during the final week of August 2022, so it has been 13 months since he last played for the Boks.

“He hasn’t played top-tier rugby in 19 weeks, since the first week of May. Having said that, we are all aware of his skill as a rugby player. He has previously won a World Cup and a British & Irish Lions series.

So now he knows what top international rugby is all about, but I think we need to be realistic and give him some time to adjust and get used to the

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