Nick Mallett (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa lost the Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in London on Saturday because they failed to score early in the second half, former coach Nick Mallett said.
"Those first eight minutes were crucial with New Zealand reduced to 14 men," the 58-year-old said on SuperSport after the defending champions won 20-18 against their great rivals.
Try-scorer Jerome Kaino was sin-binned just before half-time at Twickenham in the clash of rugby titans.
"We had to score at least three points during that period and prevent the All Blacks scoring," added the former coach who steered South Africa to 17 consecutive Test victories 17 years ago.
"Instead, New Zealand scored three points and we did not score. This semi-final turned on tiny things and that was a critical stage of the game.
"The All Blacks adopted a kicking game, rather than the ball-in-hand style they prefer. They were more adaptable than the Springboks.
"While saluting the bravery of the South Africans, who came so close, let us not forget that New Zealand scored two tries and we scored none."
Mallett said the All Blacks appeared rattled at time during the opening half, but always had a deep belief they would prevail.
"That comes from winning Tests - they have lost just three since winning the last World Cup.
"South Africa do not have that belief because they have lost more matches, especially this year in the build-up to the tournament."
South Africa-based former All Blacks coach John Mitchell said on the same show that the influence of All Blacks skipper and flank Richie McCaw was "massive".
"Never underestimate the impact he has on the All Blacks, which was particularly evident in the way he rallied them when five points behind."
Mitchell, who coached the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions to the 2011 Currie Cup title, felt the Springboks were too predictable.
"You knew what they were going to do while that was not the case with the All Blacks.
"There was attacking variety from the defending champions, but not from the Springboks, who should have considered kicking more to exit their own half."
Former Springbok flyhalf Naas Botha said the green and gold did not surprise and never looked like outsmarting the All Blacks.
"South Africa were thinking of how they could get to the tryline rather than how they could get over the tryline."
Argentina and Australia meet Sunday in the second semi-final at Twickenham and the winners face New Zealand next Saturday for the title.