Paris: Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe believes the defending champions ‘can learn’ from their 13-8 defeat by Ireland in Paris on Saturday as they start planning to reboot their Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Springboks were edged in a titanic contest at a packed and rocking Stade de France which saw wings Mack Hansen and Cheslin Kolbe touch down for their respective teams.
The Boks, however, were let down by some indifferent goalkicking and stalled by some heroic and furious Irish defence, even as the clock ticked down at the end of the game, which left them just short of the team ranked number one in the world.
For now, though, the focus is to head down to Marseille and prepare for their final pool match against Tonga next Sunday.
“The quicker you get over it the better it is for the group,” captain Siya Kolisi said after the game, a sentiment that was echoed by Kolbe.
“I am super proud of each and every player,” said the winger after the match.
“We wanted the victory but we gave everything. We left some opportunities out on the field so we have to make sure we come back next week and we capitalise on them.
“It’s disappointing but we can learn from this. As a team we now have to focus on the next match.”
South Africa lie second in Pool B and need to beat Tonga to ensure they reach the quarter-finals which, if Ireland beat Scotland to win the group, is likely to be against the hosts France.
In both cases the spotlight will be focusing intensely on their goal-kickers.
Fly-half Manie Libbok converted a first half penalty but then missed a conversion and a penalty, which may yet lead to Handre Pollard, who was called up as cover for injured hooker Malcolm Marx, moving into contention for the Tonga game.
“I am gutted for him (Libbok) but he is professional. He doesn’t go out there to miss kicks. He can only learn and grow from this,” said Kolbe.
When Faf de Klerk stepped up he failed with two penalties, although one of them tantalisingly rebounded off a post and very nearly produced a try for the Boks.
“We back them,” said centre Jesse Kriel.
“It speaks volumes for how confident we are as a team. We want guys who are bold and brave and make big decisions. If they feel they can get points they go for it.”
The likely spectre of playing France - whether with or without the injured Antoine Dupont - in the last eight is looming large on the horizon but for the moment the Boks are keeping their eyes firmly on next weekend.
“We would have loved to win to keep the confidence going,” said Kolbe. “Now we have the opportunity against Tonga to go out and perform. We have to make sure we are ready for that.”