June 19, 2024

Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff calls defeat “wake-up call”


Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff expressed his frustration, likening their defeat to chasing ghosts for 20 minutes. The South African Rugby World Cup champions suffered a 35-20 mauling at the hands of the All Blacks during the Rugby Championship in New Zealand.

The All Blacks made an explosive start, scoring two tries and amassing 17 points within the opening minutes of the match. South Africa, known for their set-piece mastery, faltered in the early stages, conceding penalties, missing tackles, and losing the lineout, breakdown, and aerial battles.

Kitshoff, a veteran of the sport and a crucial member of the Springboks, acknowledged the All Blacks’ attacking prowess while emphasizing the importance of a strong set piece. “There are a lot of lessons for us, especially when it comes to set-piece defense,” said Kitshoff, who played a pivotal role in South Africa’s World Cup victory in Japan four years ago.

The humbling defeat serves as a wake-up call for the Springboks as they prepare for their final Championship match against Argentina in Johannesburg on July 29. The outcome of this game will determine the second-place finisher, with New Zealand already holding a four-point lead going into their final-round match against struggling Australia.

Head coach Jacques Nienaber echoed Kitshoff’s sentiments, highlighting the team’s defensive weaknesses. “Defensively, we were bad. We must have missed six or seven tackles in the first five minutes,” admitted Nienaber. He also acknowledged their struggles under the high ball, an area that is typically a strength for the Springboks, stressing the need for improvement.

Nienaber emphasized the missed chances during the match, noting instances where players like Cheslin Kolbe and Eben Etzebeth were unable to convert opportunities into points. He stressed the importance of capitalizing on limited chances when facing the All Blacks.

Nienaber also praised Etzebeth, who took on the captaincy in the absence of Siya Kolisi, despite the recent passing of his father, Harry, after a long battle with cancer. The coach commended Etzebeth’s commitment to the team, acknowledging the personal sacrifice he made to stay with the squad during such a difficult time.

Looking ahead, Nienaber mentioned another player, Jaden Hendrikse, who is dealing with a similar personal tragedy. Although Hendrikse was unavailable for the Auckland Test due to a shoulder injury, he is expected to be considered for World Cup selection when the 33-man squad is announced on August 8.

Following the Championship, South Africa will face Argentina in Buenos Aires, Wales in Cardiff, and New Zealand in London for warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup. The Springboks find themselves in Pool B alongside Scotland, Romania, Ireland (currently the top-ranked Test nation), and Tonga. The winners and runners-up of this group will qualify for the quarter-finals, where South Africa could potentially face second-ranked France or New Zealand if they progress.

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