Jacques Nienaber praises Siya Kolisi’s leadership after South Africa level series

Springboks captain admits he endured a tough week in the build-up to second Test

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi celebrates after tackling Robbie Henshaw to prevent a Lions try. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi celebrates after tackling Robbie Henshaw to prevent a Lions try. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

A relieved and eminently satisfied Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber hailed his team and particularly his captain Siya Kolisi and his leadership, after levelling the series to set up a decider next Saturday.

Nienaber was also adamant that the match officials were correct in only brandishing Cheslin Kolbe with a yellow card for taking out Conor Murray in the air and toppling him head first to the ground.

“I thought it was the right call, a yellow card. They followed the process to a ‘T’.”

Nienaber also thanked the supporters who had congregated at their team hotel.

“The supporters were unbelievable. They were at our hotel from two o’clock. I’m getting goose bumps thinking of it. They were singing and cheering. I’m so happy they backed us.”

“Our leadership group was fantastic. I should give them my win bonus. I felt more of a facilitator than a coach.”

An emotional Siya Kolisi, the Springboks’ World Cup winning captain, said it was the hardest week of his career.

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“It has been a week and a half. Honestly, for me personally as a leader, it was the toughest week I ever had to face, with everything happening.

“Fortunately, Jacques and the coaches around made sure we focused on the things that we could fix. We know we made a lot of mistakes out there last week, especially with the maul and everything. We put all the focus on the game on what we could fix.

“Having our families [with us] to be honest, has been one of the things that has helped me a lot. Seeing my kids afterwards, a tough day at training, come home, and the wives and kids are waiting. It’s very special.

“It was huge. We knew what we didn’t do. It was same pressure we felt at the World Cup, but now it is a bit more because this only happens every 12 years.

“So, as a person and individual, we had to go back to what works for you. For me, I pray, I read my devotions. That’s how I handle my pressure.

“As a team, we go back to what we know with the systems, the structures of the team, working on fixes. Every individual looks at what you need to do.

“That’s what we went to because you can’t control everything, but what we can apply on the field, that’s what we focused on.”

On the day before the game unsurprisingly, Kolisi had backed the claim by Rassie Erasmus that the Australian referee Nic Berry had treated Alun Wyn Jones with much more respect.

“That is nothing personal, you know? I didn’t want to elaborate on it because I want to talk to the person about it.

“Today was better,” he added in reference to referee Ben O’Keeffe. “I went to Ben before, it was great working with him. He came to me afterwards and said ‘Thank you’. Mathieu [Raynal] as well, the ref for next week.”

Looking ahead to the series decider, Kolisi said: “It’s game on. We are going to go again. Nothing is different. We are just going to try and do what we did today even harder.”

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