Boks confident of comeback
London - South Africa assistant coach Dick Muir lamented his side's failure to hold onto a lead after the world champions were beaten for a third successive time on their European tour, but expressed confidence they will redeem themselves against Italy on Saturday.
The stuttering Springboks came to Wembley Stadium on Tuesday on the back of defeats to Leicester Tigers and France, but they looked as if they were going to claim their first victory this month when they took an 18-6 lead into the interval against Sarries.
However, the tourists imploded in the second half, conceding two early tries before seeing South African flyhalf Derick Hougaard drop a 75th-minute goal to win the game 24-23 for the English league leaders.
With Tests against Italy and Ireland still to come, South Africa still have an opportunity to bounce back on this tour but Muir was disappointed his side, made up of second-string dirt-trackers, could not hold out at England's home of football.
"I thought we had a very good first half but they put a lot of pressure on us and the things we did so well in the first half, we didn't do in the second half," he said.
"There were a couple of decisions that went against us in the second half but they got the momentum.
"I certainly believe we can redeem ourselves in the next two Test matches though. We are taking things game by game, and the game in Italy (on Saturday) is going to be huge."
Two-try winger Jongi Nokwe was one of the few players to cover himself in glory on Tuesday night as he touched down in the 38th and 63rd minutes, the second a particularly well-worked score.
Centre Juan de Jongh was the Springboks' other tryscorer, in the 29th minute, but in general the team produced a mixed bag in front of 46,281 fans.
Muir nevertheless insisted nights like these provide an opportunity for the country's youngsters to pick up some valuable experience and Brendan Venter, the former South Africa centre who is director of rugby at Saracens, agreed.
"These players have not played or trained together enough," he said.
"But these are really good players. Individually they didn't play badly but how do you mould a team without any training sessions? They are basically like a Barbarians team, so I do feel for them.
"It would be unfair to criticise the depth (in South African rugby). I still think the experiment hasn't failed - they have been blooded and are being exposed to players like Victor Matfield, John Smit and Fourie du Preez in training every day."
The Springboks could have a front-row crisis on their hands after Leinster prop CJ van der Linde, who was only recently called into the squad, trudged off with a strained hamstring after just 10 minutes.
With Johann du Plessis out of the tour because of a hand injury, and both hooker Chiliboy Ralapelle and prop Gurthro Steenkamp injured in the defeat to Leicester, head coach Peter de Villiers is down to the bare bones in that department.
Andries Bekker was another South African to pick up an injury at Wembley, the lock going off with a rib complaint.