A late penalty condemns SA team to 17-14 defeat a week before Lions series

South Africa A beaten by Bulls

South Africa A lost 17-14 to the Bulls in Cape Town a week before the first Test against the British & Irish Lions.

The match in Cape Town was arranged to give South Africa more game time ahead of the Lions 2021 series after their second Test against Georgia had to be cancelled due to positive Covid cases in both camps.

The South Africa coaches had made 12 changes to the team that beat the Lions in midweek but it was still packed with Springboks.

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South Africa A led 14-0 at the break thanks to tries from full-back Aphelele Fassi and Wandisile Simelane converted by Elton Jantjies.

The Bulls, who had their own match against the Lions called off last weekend after they returned several positive Covid tests, then launched a second-half comeback and scored 17 unanswered points to triumph.

Keagan Johannes and Johan Grobbelaar scored the Bulls’ tries, which were both converted by Johan Goosen, before replacement Chris Smith slotted a long-range penalty in the closing minutes.

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber was keen to take the positives from the match despite the defeat, although he did admit some players had likely ruled themselves out of Test selection for the Lions series rather than put themselves in contention.

A lineout during the SA A-Bulls match (Getty Images)

“We needed three games to get our ducks in a row before the Test series and we got that,” he said. “The result was not what we had hoped for, but a number of questions were answered, especially with regards to the readiness of individual players and their readiness for selection.

“I wanted the guys to stake a claim for selection for next week’s Test and unfortunately, not everyone did that, but I am not going to discuss individuals – any comments on them will be emotional, because we are hurting.

“As a team, the performance was not there, and I blame myself for that as well. The lack of dominance from our pack was not what we had expected. With the late confirmation of the game, we also did not do any analysis on the Bulls and that showed, while I did expect a better set-piece platform.”

With regards the first Test against the Lions, which takes place in Cape Town next Saturday, it is not yet clear if any players will be unavailable for selection due to Covid. Key players like captain Siya Kolisi and fly-half Handré Pollard have not played since that first-Test win over Georgia at the start of July, with both amongst those testing positive for Covid.

Nienaber expects to know who will be available on Sunday, saying: “We will look at physical readiness and consider Covid protocols before we select our team and, in that regard, will be guided by our medical team.

“We will consider a number of factors before deciding to select players who have not played for the Boks in the last couple of years, like how long we have worked with them, their training stats and other factors like that.

“Some players who have been in our mix will slot back in more easily than others. But we will have a proper medical feedback session tomorrow so will make a call who will be in line for Test selection.”

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