Damian Willemse. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
- Springbok Jacques Nienaber refused to blame Damian Willemse and Cheslin Kolbe’s goalkicking for costing the side a potential victory against Ireland in Dublin.
- Instead, he believes they should simply return to the training field and put in the hard yards when it comes to kicking off the tee.
- Bok skipper Siya Kolisi also argued there was no real justification for questioning the performance of referee Nika Amashukeli.
Keep on practicing.
That was Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s simple message to his goalkickers after he steadfastly refused to blame Damian Willemse and Cheslin Kolbe’s inconsistent efforts off the tee in Saturday night’s tense 16-19 loss to Ireland in Dublin.
There had been reservations about South Africa’s decision not to go into the match with a specialist sharpshooter – both Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies are unavailable for the tour – and those detractors will derive little satisfaction from being proved correct.
Willemse notably launched a penalty attempt so skew that some quipped it was a cross-kick, while one of Kolbe’s conversions hit the post and another went wide.
Regardless of whether the game was lost in other areas, the reality remains that those seven botched points cost the Boks a victory.
It’s true that Irish pivot Johnny Sexton also had a difficult night, but, as Nienaber pointed out, he still nailed the attempts that mattered, like his long-range penalty in the 74th minute to put the hosts out of reach.
READ | Disappointment in Dublin: Irish passion, accuracy overpower Boks as hosts secure tense win
“Most people who look back on this game will probably say it was the difference between the two sides. Jonny missed a kick or two too, but he nailed the big ones,” said the Bok head coach.
“We missed a couple and that’s definitely something we’ll keep working on.”
Reluctant to speculate on whether the travails off the tee could mean an unexpected debut for Manie Libbok against France next week, Nienaber instead suggested Willemse and Co must put in the hard yards at training.
“We’re working on it. We and the players measure their goalkicking, so they know at what percentage they’re kicking at during the week,” he said.
“It’s tough, in some instances a miss is actually a kick that hits the posts. It is what it is. None of the goalkickers go out there to miss a goal.
“Johnny didn’t try to miss his first conversion, for example, but the key is he nailed the big ones and we didn’t. I’ll never blame a player for that. They must just keep working on it, which they are.”
Meanwhile, skipper Siya Kolisi believed there was no justification for questioning the performance of Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli, even though both Ireland’s tries were dogged by clear forward passes in the build-up.
In fact, he made the reasonable point that once those score cleared the TMO’s adjudication, there’s really not much left for Kolisi and his teammates to do except carry on.
“I can’t comment on that. I’ll never blame the ref,” Kolisi said succinctly.
“Both tries were checked and then there’s nothing else you can do. I thought he was fair and Ireland played very well.”
Nienaber adopted the same line.
“Ireland deserved this victory. They were good and capitalised on their opportunities. Every one they got, they used.”
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