Nienaber could not watch as Steyn became Springbok hero again

Cape Town (AFP) –


South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber could not watch as Morne Steyn kicked a late penalty to win the series-deciding third Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.

"I had my head down between my legs when he kicked that last penalty goal -- I just could not watch," he admitted in an online news conference after the 19-16 triumph in Cape Town.

"It was just great for Morne that he succeeded and amazing that he did the same thing 12 years ago," said Nienaber, who became head coach last year after World Cup-winning handler Rassie Erasmus returned to his rugby director role.

Steyn last played for South Africa in 2016 and after failing to make the matchday 23 for the first two Tests against the Lions, was promoted to the bench with the series locked at one victory each.

The 37-year-old fly-half replaced Handre Pollard with 15 minutes remaining and also immediately slotted a penalty to give the Springboks a three-point advantage.

After rival playmaker Finn Russell levelled from another penalty, Steyn turned match and series winner one minute from time by kicking his second penalty.

In 2009, when the Lions last visited South Africa, Steyn also came off the bench and also slotted a late match-winning penalty to give the Springboks an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

"I also want to congratulate the other two fly-halves in the group," said Nienaber, the defence coach under Erasmus during the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan.

- 'Like World Cup final' -

"Handre was great during the series and Elton Jantjies was just amazing this week. He contributed so much, even after knowing he was not going to be involved in the third Test."

Nienaber said winning the series after losing the first Test was emotionally similar to defeating England in Japan and lifting the World Cup a record-equalling third time.

"The ebb and flow of the game was like the World Cup final all over again. We knew we had to hang in there and make sure every player stayed in the game.

"This was a serious test of decision making and character, and we came through. Our biggest challenge was getting time to prepare as we had some Covid-19 issues and had to sit in hotel rooms for a week.

"Our attitude was to move on and find solutions. There was so much experience in the squad that we managed to get the work done in the end."

Springbok captain and flanker Siya Kolisi said despite the difficult build-up to the hugely anticipated series, the squad vowed not to use the challenges as excuses if they failed.

"Our supporters would not accept excuses anyway. We knew that once we stepped on to the field, we had to be ready to compete."

Kolisi hailed the coaching staff, saying "They know how to get us up emotionally.

"We were also inspired by the people who came out on a chilly evening to cheer us as we drove to the stadium. We could not let them down."