Props don’t get many tries so Willem Nel was a more than usually happy after helping his side beat Japan with the try that allowed them to break clear early in the second half.
“It is good to get over the line,” he said, adding that though he hobbled off in the second half, he doesn’t think the injury is too serious and hopes to be fit for next week.
As for the match, he joined in the general feeling that though there were a number of positives, including the result, there were also things that need to be sorted out. They can assume that Japan will also benefit from a game under their belt and improve next week, but at least they know the areas to work on.
“It was a physical game,” said Nel. “We made a lot of mistakes and gave away too many penalties at the wrong time but there were good stuff to take away. We need to get quicker to the breakdown and not give away silly penalties.
“They have come out all guns blazing and they are a physical team and it took us a while to break them down. It is a fairly close game. I should be OK for next week.
“They ran us close. We need to go back to the drawing board, especially at the breakdown. We were in their 22 four or five times then gave penalties away. We need to tighten up and see us through.”
The general feeling of frustration echoed the views of Vern Cotter, the head coach, and Greig Laidlaw, the captain. “I am happy with the result but there are certain parts of the content, when we have a look at it, I am sure we will want to improve,” was Cotter’s verdict.
“We got the essential, which was a victory, and we created a number of opportunities. Another week together will help improve cohesion and help to get some of those opportunities to stick.
“Our set piece held up. There were a couple of balls lost. Our defensive lineout was OK and our discipline was probably the key. We made more errors and they turned over a fair number of balls to us, which enabled us to get the pressure off.
“We could not string things together but there are ingredients there that will help us play big games and keep possession for longer. It is concentrating on the positive things and trying to string them together a big longer.”
Laidlaw agreed: “I would say that is a fair comment, fits and starts sometimes – sometimes we were good, sometimes we weren’t. I don’t know if we switched off because we have not played for that length of time. We will look to tighten up in a few areas next week to make sure that is not the case.
“We need to look at ourselves. Take the positives, there are positives in a win, it is good to win at this level, but I think we can tighten up. I was a little disappointed in the maul on a couple of occasions and think we can tighten up there. We coughed the ball up a couple of times so we certainly practiced our defence. On the whole I thought our defending was good, so that is another positive we can take out of the game.”
Japan were equally frustrated. While Mark Hammett, the interim head coach, could not fault the effort, he felt they showed too much naivety.
“We needed to pick our battles and we did not always pick the right ones. Maybe when we reflect back on the reasons we were down on numbers is because we did not pick the right battles,” he said.