Cape Town - Former national coach Nick Mallett says there are positives “to cling to” for Springbok supporters after the 2018 season.
The Springboks ended their 2018 campaign on a low note by losing 20-11 to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
They finished the year with a 50% win-record from 14 Tests.
“Out of all the games we have played this year, we have been in every single game. England at Newlands was one of the few where we had lost it with 20 minutes to go. Even in this game, there were three points in it until a couple of decisions went against us. We should have won in England and in Pretoria (against the All Blacks), where we were ahead with five minutes to go,” Mallett said in the SuperSport studio on Saturday night.
“In every single game we have played, including Australia away, we were in the game. There have been no blowouts, no embarrassing 30-points-to-three losses, which we have had to endure over the past two seasons. That is something to cling to as a Springbok supporter. This team plays with a lot more guts, and going into the World Cup will be a lot more confident than they were this year.”
Mallett though added that the loss to Wales was “comfortably the Springboks’ worst performance” of the year.
“Wales played very well, controlled the ball well and played intelligent rugby. They never looked in danger of losing possession when they had it. They kept on putting us under pressure, phase after phase after phase. We would either give a penalty away, or as we did in the first half those two tries. You have to take your hat off to them, they played well, and whether you like it or not they are five wins out of six against us. That is why they are third and we are fifth (in the world rankings).”
But Mallett said he was positive looking ahead to the 2019 season.
“‘We can be excited by the fact that we have got a united team, a team with good leaders. Siya (Kolisi) was thrown in the deep end against England and he has come through really nicely, supported by people like (Duane) Vermeulen and (Handre) Pollard, who has established himself as a leader. Willie le Roux has been running that back three. Our pack of forwards can match anyone in the world, it is just a question of whether we can score the tries that we need to. We did against New Zealand, but really battled on this tour.
“This World Cup will be the closest of all time. There won’t ever have been eight teams that will get into the quarter-finals, all with a possibility of getting through to the semis. In the past it used to be New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and one other semi-finalist. The eight teams will be pushing each other to get to the semi-final.”