White banks on experience as reward

 South Africa coach Jake White cast a bitterly disappointed figure in the immediate aftermath of the Springboks’ 26-21 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, but the silver lining to his cloud was the experience some of his less senior charges would have gained.

Otherwise, White confessed to his team being tired at the end – the Boks have had a punishing schedule over the last couple of months – and also reserved a slight barb for some 50-50 calls not going his team’s way.

“We played well in the first half, and we held up a couple of good positions on the line there, and we got a nice score just before half time where I thought momentum could have gone in our favour,” said White.

“But from then on… you know, all credit to the All Blacks, they never gave up they kept coming at us and there is no doubt we were found wanting at the end.

“Any loss is a blow, but we have had six weekends in a row where we have played semi-finals, finals or Test matches.

“Anybody watching that game could tell in the last 20 minutes that we have been playing Test intensity matches for seven weeks in succession. You could see a complete difference in the way they lifted their game when their replacements came on.”

Defining moments for the watching public could have included Pedrie Wannenburg’s yellow card for killing the ball barely minutes after he came on as a replacement for Bob Skinstad, or the departure of Butch James with a hamstring injury and the addition of Frans Steyn to fly-half.

But white looked at two more specific incidents in game play as the match-turners.

“There were a couple of defining moments, I haven’t seen the video yet, but I felt there were a couple of things that didn’t go our way,” he said.

“There was the pass on the other side of the field (shortly before Rchie McCaw’s try) where I wasn’t sure if that ball went forward, there was the catch by JP (Pietersen), where I am not quite sure if the All Black player wasn’t in front of the ball when he tackled JP so… that could have been a penalty to us instead of a 70-yard try down the other end of the field.

“But it happens. You have to llive with it, and it is little things like that, especially in Springbok-All Black Test matches that make a difference.”

Steyn went from hero to zero pretty rapidly, conceding a 5m scrum with his first touch, and making two or three other errors betraying his relative Test match immaturity.

But White again pointed at a positive, saying that it was crucial in the build up to the Rugby World Cup that players like Steyn experienced those situations.

“It wasn’t a gamble at all putting Frans at fly-half. Butch had a sore hammie, and Frans was the guy who was back-up to Butch,” explained White.

“It was a good opportunity for some new guys to play against the All Blacks. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but it makes them senior players, and the more of those we have, the more experienced guys we have.

“It’s a learning curve for them because they need to be in that situation and be able to win, and that is one of the positives we can take from this Test, that they have this experience behind them.”

Captain Victor Matfield was under no illusions as to where the game was won or lost, bemoaning the fatigue evident throughout much of his team towards the end of the match.

“We had them under good pressure in the first half, and I think we did very well to match the tempo of their game,” he said.

“In the second half they caught us with their faster tempo and quick throws, and that’s where we lost it a little bit, we couldn’t stay with them.”

By Danny Stephens in Durban 365 Digital

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