Four missed attempts at goal came back to haunt the Boks in their 8-13 defeat in Pool B.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi rued the missed opportunities as they suffered a disappointing 13-8 defeat against the top-ranked team in the world, Ireland, in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, but said they would keep their heads high and turn their focus to next week’s encounter against Tonga.
With the Springboks having won their opening matches against Scotland and Romania, the match in Paris was not a do-or-die, however, it does mean they have to register a win against Tonga next week Sunday to advance to the quarter-final.
The match was a ding-dong battle from the outset with Ireland taking a narrow 7-3 halftime lead, and although both teams finished the match with a try a piece, the Irish managed to come away with the five-point victory.
“Hats off to Ireland, they were better on the day,” said Nienaber.
“We missed a few points off the tee, but that’s not to say that’s the only thing that cost us. In the first half we missed two chances close to the tryline and in the second half we missed a few too, so we had opportunities.”
When drawn into the breakdown contest, Nienaber said: “Ireland were exceptional at the breakdown, they overpowered us and we did not get momentum, and that came at a cost. But we’ll train hard to get better at it and make new plans to deal with that area.”
Kolisi shared Nienaber’s sentiments: “Ireland were more accurate at the breakdown than us and faster, and some of our opportunities were lost there. But we take responsibility for that.”
Looking forward to their next match, the Bok skipper said: “We are going to work hard on the things that we need to improve. We didn’t lose the game in all departments, so we have to be better in general. The reality is if you don’t take your points at this level, this is what happens.”
Kolisi refused to be pulled down by the defeat and said: “There were players who haven’t played under this pressure before, so we’ll lift our heads and prepare for next week against Tonga. We’ve been in this position before, so the quicker we get over it the better.”
Giving a wider assessment of the match, Nienaber said: “Both teams will take a lot from this game. If you look at the physicality, intensity, and the players were tested mentally as well.
“It was similar to the pressure of a knock-out game, so it was good preparation in that regard, even though we didn’t get the result.”
The Springboks will return to Toulon in the south of France on Sunday to begin their preparations for their final pool match, against Tonga in Marseille on Sunday, 1 October.
South Africa 8 [Try: Kolbe; Pen: Libbok] Ireland 13 [Try: Hansen; Con: Sexton; Pens: Sexton, Crowley]
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Kwagga Smith, 23 Cobus Reinach.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France) & James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)