- Handre Pollard became the first Bok skipper to lose a home Test to Wales, but won’t be dwelling on that ignominious “honour”.
- He insisted he still feels encouraged by the performance in Bloemfontein as an inexperienced team created much of the play.
- National coach Jacques Nienaber was similarly positive, but admitted next week’s focus is now on winning the series with a so-called A-team.
Handre Pollard didn’t envisage being the first Springbok captain to lose a Test against Wales in South Africa and while he looked glum in the aftermath, he insisted he was encouraged by an experimental combination’s performance.
Much of that sentiment is rooted in the fact that the Boks – despite lacking overall experience and cohesion – managed to control proceedings for the best part of 67 minutes before a late Welsh rally ensured a 13-12 victory.
“You’re never going to be satisfied with a loss playing in a Springbok jersey,” said the flyhalf, who stepped up from his vice-captaincy role to deputise for Siya Kolisi.
“But in general, I’m still positive. I think the guys really showed fight and that’s all we can ask for. The result is very disappointing and it will take 24 hours for us to get over it, but then we’ll look at the detail and determine where we could’ve done better.
“We’ll learn and come back better next week. That’s all we can do.”
South Africa did indeed create much of the play at a packed Free State Stadium, which is reflected in several match stats.
Their 294 running metres dwarfed Wales’ 94; they enjoyed 52% and 61% possession and territory respectively; and beat seven defenders while making three line breaks through debutant winger Kurt-Lee Arendse and hooker Joseph Dweba.
The harsh lesson though is that with mere scraps, the Welsh managed to do more.
“The opportunities were there in the first half,” said Pollard.
“That’s definitely something positive. We were able to create. I’m proud. We just weren’t clinical enough in the last minutes.”
National coach Jacques Nienaber agreed.
“We were regularly in Wales’ half and we definitely didn’t capitalise fully. The final quarter’s indiscipline held us back, but I was still encouraged,” he said.
“You never want to lose. We’re playing for something bigger, our country, our fans and the whole team agrees that we let down an amazing crowd here in Bloemfontein by not winning.
“Next week is going to be a final. We’ve been trying to paint the picture throughout that Wales were coming here not to compete, they were coming here to win a series.
“We came here tonight to try and win the series. We couldn’t but we got some answers. Going into the last game, it’s going to be a final.”