South Africa's problems are 'fixable', insists Nienaber

By Sports Desk July 24, 2021

The problems that led to South Africa's second-half collapse in Saturday's 22-17 defeat to the British and Irish Lions are "fixable", according to head coach Jacques Nienaber. 

Four penalties from Handre Pollard put the Springboks 12-3 ahead at half-time, but Warren Gatland's side roared back in the second period at the Cape Town Stadium. 

A Faf de Klerk try extended the world champions' lead after Luke Cowan-Dickie had crashed over, yet Dan Biggar took his tally from the tee to 14 points with a couple of penalties, before Owen Farrell put the Lions five points up late on.

While Nienaber was pleased with his side's first-half display, he acknowledged the Lions were good value for the win based on their improved showing after the interval. 

Pollard missed both of his kicks in the second half – one penalty, one conversion – while the Lions, having missed a pair of penalties just before the break, were flawless with the boot following the restart to win a Test having trailed at half-time for the first time since 1989.

"The kicking game was won by us in the first half and we got the rewards, but the second half was a different story," Nienaber said, with South Africa's seven-game winning run – their best in Tests since 2014 – ended.

"They won that battle and it gave them territory, advantage in broken field play and we had to scramble, and we could not cope."

Despite their poor second-half performance, Nienaber is confident it will be just a case of minor tweaks ahead of the second Test next Saturday.

"We were nine points up, so things were working for us," he added. "We were playing in the right areas.

"Our half-time talk was to step up at the breakdown and then our discipline fell away. We started to make mistakes, especially at maul time. We did not make the step-up needed when required.

"We can certainly salvage this. A proper review is needed, but we can sort it out, no doubt. It worked in the first half and I believe what happened in the second half is fixable."

Captain Siya Kolisi was in agreement with his coach, highlighting the Springboks' failure to dominate the maul as a key reason behind the defeat. The Lions won 10 mauls to the Springboks' three.

"We did not get the maul going and we need to look at that," he said.

"They won the crucial balls in the air and the scraps that came from that. Well done to them. We are back at work tomorrow and will start fixing what we need to."

Related items

  • Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Oblak tests positive for coronavirus Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Oblak tests positive for coronavirus

    Atletico Madrid have announced that goalkeeper Jan Oblak has tested positive for coronavirus.

    The Slovenia international, Atletico's most used player this season, will now serve a period of self-isolation.

    However, with a 12-day gap until Atleti travel to Barcelona for their next LaLiga outing, the 29-year-old is not expected to miss any matches.

    A statement on the Spanish side's official website on Tuesday read: "Jan Oblak has tested positive for COVID-19. 

    "Our goalkeeper remains isolated, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities."

    Oblak's 30 starts in all competitions this term is bettered by only two others – Jose Fonte and Antonio Rudiger (both 31) – among players from Europe's top five leagues.

    He has conceded 26 goals in 21 LaLiga games this season from an expected goals (xG) against return of 18.46, with that negative 7.54 differential the worst in the division.

    The 38 goals Oblak has conceded in all competitions this term across his 30 appearances is two more than he shipped in 46 games last time out.

  • Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth

    Ash Barty was in clinical form to swat aside Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-0 in just 63 minutes and book her spot in the Australian Open semi-finals.

    The world number one is still to drop a set at her home slam in Melbourne and made easy work of her opponent as Barty continued her bid to become the first female Australian singles champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

    Barty won nine games in a row from 3-2 up in the first set to take complete command and she can now prepare for a semi-final showdown with another American in the form of Madison Keys.

    A nervy-looking Pegula was rushing her shots in the early exchanges and Barty broke in the first game when a forehand cross set up a break point chance that her opponent put into the net.

    Barty had chalked up 12 unforced errors by game four, but it was her aggressive tactics that had Pegula completely on the ropes and when a thumping forehand set up another break point in game seven, it was little surprise when it was converted.

    By this point Barty was in complete command and Pegula had no answer to the variety of shots her opponent rained down on her.

    The second set raced by in just 28 minutes, with Barty putting the finishing touch on a mightily impressive performance when Pegula put a return long on the second match point.

    "Jess is an incredible person and a brilliant girl. I love to test myself against her. She's had sensational couple of years, she's definitely a top-20 player, there's plenty more to come for sure," Barty said after the match.

    On reaching the semis in Melbourne for the second time after doing so in 2020, she added: "I've grown as a person, as a player, I'm a more complete tennis player.

    "Credit to my team, they do so much work behind the scenes to make me the best version of myself, I love playing out here. Hopefully I've got a little bit more left."

    DATA SLAM: Barty serves up a treat again

    Barty defeated both Pegula and Keys en route to winning her maiden slam title at the 2019 French Open and history could be repeating itself here with the world number one playing arguably the best tennis of her career.

    Behind her dominance is phenomenal success on serve. Barty is still yet to drop a set in Melbourne, and went 63 games without being broken before Amanda Anisimova did so in the previous round. Here, she lost just five points on first serve (22 of 27, 81 per cent) and gave up just a solitary break-point opportunity in the match.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 17/22
    Pegula – 7/26

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 6/2
    Pegula – 1/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 5/9
    Pegula – 0/1

  • Australian Open: Nadal survives Shapovalov scare in epic quarter-final Australian Open: Nadal survives Shapovalov scare in epic quarter-final

    Rafael Nadal survived a huge scare to reach the Australian Open semi-finals with an enthralling five-set win over Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday.

    Nadal is two wins away from a record-breaking 21st grand slam title after enduring a four-hour epic to beat Shapovalov 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

    A year after losing from two-sets-to-love up at the same stage to Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was almost a repeat for Nadal.

    But, seemingly battling a stomach issue, the Spaniard remained alive in his bid to set the outright record for most grand slams won by a man, following a thrilling battle that lasted four hours, eight minutes.

    The success saw Nadal – who will face either Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils in the last four – reach his 36th career grand slam semi-final and seventh at Melbourne Park, where he claimed the title in 2009.

    Nadal landed the first blow with a break to love in the fourth game.

    A superb forehand winner down the line got Nadal going before three wild forehands in a row from Shapovalov saw him fall 3-1 behind.

    Shapovalov was unable to make any inroads against the Nadal serve, winning just five return points in a 39-minute opening set.

    The Canadian was angry with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes' decision not to give Nadal a time violation between sets and the players unusually met at the net before the second game of the second set.

    Nadal needed a tough hold during a 12-point sixth game and he capitalised in the next, an overhead securing the break after Shapovalov had sent a forehand well long at 30-30 to end a point he had been in complete control of.

    Nadal closed out the set, but found trouble in the sixth game of the third as he faced break points for the first time after a double fault.

    After saving both and holding serve, Nadal was broken at the key time – when serving to stay in the set – as Shapovalov delivered a backhand cross-court winner to extend the contest.

    The momentum had well and truly swung and a double fault from Nadal saw Shapovalov break for 3-1 in the fourth set.

    Approaching the three-hour mark, Nadal required a medical timeout, seemingly suggesting an issue with his stomach.

    Shapovalov found himself in some trouble trying to level the match, but recovered from 15-40 to force a fifth set.

    Nadal – who had been beaten from two-sets-to-love up just twice previously in his grand slam career – had to save a break point in the opening game of the decider, a volley winner to hold drawing huge cheers from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.

    Instead, Shapovalov played a loose game, two wayward forehands, a double fault and a framed backhand giving Nadal a break and 2-0 lead.

    Nadal, looking far more energetic, saved two break points in the third game before becoming more comfortable on serve on his way to the last four, Shapovalov smashing his racquet after match point.

     

    DATA SLAM: Nadal overcomes major Melbourne hurdle … just

    Nadal improved his record in grand slam quarter-finals to 36-9, but the last eight has often been a problem in Melbourne during his incredible career.

    He is now 7-7 in Australian Open quarter-finals after surviving the Shapovalov battle, far worse than his record at the French Open (14-1), Wimbledon (7-0) and US Open (8-1).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 41/28
    Shapovalov – 53/51

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 8/11
    Shapovalov – 20/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 3/7
    Shapovalov – 2/8

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.