There were good moments and some not so good moments for the Junior Springboks in their 33-23 win over Georgia on Saturday, but for head coach Bafana Nhleko, the victory was always non-negotiable and he was relieved that the team started their World Rugby Under-20 Championship on that positive note.
South Africa held a 20-7 lead at the break, but allowed Georgia to close the gap to 20-18, before putting daylight between themselves and their European opponents once more (match report here).
“We have not played as much test match rugby as the other teams, who for example, played in the Six Nations tournament, so there was always going to be hiccups in our performance,” said Nhleko.
“The fact that we had to dig deep, especially in that second half when Georgia came back strongly, was what we needed to find that trigger that comes with playing at this level. I thought the team responded well in the latter stages of the game and that bodes well going into the next game.”
For Nhleko the gremlins in the performance were the scrum penalties conceded and the way the team defended in the early part of the second half.
“We will have a look to see what went wrong with regards to those penalties and will need to fix them. We were outflanked on the outside and Georgia managed to get around us for their second try, so that is something we will work on. We were guilty of not folding quickly enough and not getting our bounce for width at that time and they exploited it.”
The experience gained of playing tests and of their intensity will help the squad get better and better as the tournament goes on, Nhleko said.
“We saw in the other results that there were a couple of tight games, it just points out what a competitive tournament this is and the more we play at this level, the better we will get.”
Nhleko said the focus now moves to Italy.
“It is a short turn-around, so we can’t dwell on the Georgia game too much. We will do a review and then it is time to get ourselves ready for Italy. They will be hurting after their game against Argentina and will come at us hard.”
Nhleko will name his team for the match on Tuesday.