Rugby World Cup 2011

Div: Brilliant start for Boks

2011-09-11 17:53
Peter de Villiers (AP)

Wellington - South Africa's coach Peter de Villiers played down concerns over his side's narrow 17-16 win over Wales in their opening World Cup, saying a positive result was the only thing that mattered.

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South Africa allowed Wales to dominate both possession and territory in the match and could only watch on with bated breath as Rhys Priestland and James Hook missed a drop goal and penalty respectively in the final nerve-wracking moments that would have put Wales back in front.

"What a brilliant start for us," said De Villiers. "We always knew it was probably going to be tough.

"It was very hard. I enjoyed this one.

"They never allowed us to get going. It was a test of character. We came to win the first one and we achieved that goal," he said.

South Africa suffered a blow when they lost centre Jean de Villiers (ribs) halfway through the first half and veteran lock Victor Matfield (hamstring) early in the second half to injury.

But coach De Villiers was quick to praise the impact of his substitutes, replacement wing Francois Hougaard scoring the second decisive try after Francois Steyn's opening five pointer after just a couple of minutes played.

"We lost Jean very early and Victor very early in the second half," he said. "The bench came on and made a difference. They have to up the tempo and put the opposition under pressure and they did just that.

"I'm very worried about them (De Villiers and Matfield). We'll have a full assessment after 24 hours."

The Springboks, featuring 16 members of the victorious 2007 squad in the match-day selection, with 11 in the starting 15, also had Morné Steyn to thank for kicking two conversions and a penalty, while Toby Faletau scored Wales' sole try, with James Hook kicking 11 points.

Captain John Smit said the weight of expectation from a demanding South African public had led to "extra pressure" on the team, but was left "delighted" by the result.

"I'm delighted we got through. There was huge pressure from back home and there were a lot of nerves," he said.

"The tournament's about only one thing. It's only about results in the World Cup."

Smit played down concerns over South Africa's performance, saying that while it was not at its best, the Welsh also managed to make life very difficult.

"Wales played well," he said. "We didn't have the chance to play. They flooded the breakdown pretty much everywhere. The performance was not at its best but we can take a lot out of it.

"The boys have been around for a while. There was a lot of calm. They have huge belief in each other.

"It was just hard to get into their half."


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