Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer spoke after South Africa’s last minute 24-20 defeat to the Wallabies of Australia in Brisbane on Saturday in the country’s opening Rugby Championship match.
The Springboks did well throughout the match, but a try from the home side in the dying minutes of the encounter handed them the victory, with no consolation for Meyer’s team.
Australia managed tries from Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper, while for the visitors Eben Etzebeth and Jesse Kriel, on his debut for the South Africans, both scored their first test tries for the Springboks, while Handre Pollard converted four kicks from five attempts, including two conversions and two penalties.
In the 70th minute, with only 10 left on the clock, the Springboks led 20-10, but Hooper scored to bring the score within reach for Australia, and a Tevita Kuridrani converted try in injury time broke the hearts of countless South African fans watching the test.
Speaking to the media following the loss, Meyer has praise for his team despite the bitter disappointment, but singled out issues that led to the defeat.
“It’s heart-breaking to lose like that for a second year running in Australia, but we simply can’t dwell on it and have to take some harsh but valuable lessons to heart,” Meyer explained, according to SuperSport.
Meyer bemoaned the loss of skipper Victor Matfield in the early stages of the match, through a hamstring problem, and pointed to the young nature of the team, though he refused to use the inexperience of the squad as an excuse.
“Losing our captain early was tough and we finished the match with eight players who were playing in their 10th test or fewer than that. It’s not an excuse. We will all be better for it and we will have to look at ways to overcome this. Although we played some brilliant rugby at times, our execution also let us down and I think we left two tries out there, right at the end of the first half and midway through the second,” he added with frustration.
“We probably lacked some experience at the end when we needed to close the match, but we’ve said from the word go this season that we wanted to use our five matches in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup to get ready. We’ll never accept defeat but I believe that we will take a lot from this match against a very experienced Wallaby team,” he admitted.
He was then quick to refocus on the next match, and the next stage in preparation for the Rugby World Cup in September.
“Next week we have the All Blacks waiting in Johannesburg and we have to rise to the challenge.”