South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber was delighted to beat “slippery” Scotland but insists the world champions aren’t looking further ahead than Romania in their bid to defend the Rugby World Cup.    

There was little to separate the Springboks and the Scots after a brutally physical first half, but they pulled clear after the break with two tries in three minutes and restricted a dangerous Scottish attack to just three points.   

“This was a slippery one for us,” said Nienaber. “We could see what they were doing in their warm-up games, how they pushed France, and the big teams that they won against in the lead-up.

“We knew it was going to be a grind. But the last time we played them [a 30-15 win in 2021] the point difference was 15 and it was 15 again today. They’re a tough team who stick in there and grind.” 

The match was billed pre-game as a clash of styles between the notorious power game of the Springboks and the attack-first mentality of Gregor Townsend’s side. 

READ MORE: Scotland fall to defeat to South Africa in World Cup opener

But one Finn Russell penalty on the brink of half-time proved to be the only moment for Scottish fans to celebrate in Marseille as they were stifled by a bullish defence. 

“Defence is kind of beautiful for me,” Nienaber added. 

“All credit to Scotland, they play with great speed and have got good innovation in terms of how they attack. 

“We had to be really sharp in terms of trying to cut off all their options. They can create something miraculous out of nothing, so credit to the players.  

“There was a lot of hard work off the field but also on the field tonight to make sure to try and keep them at bay. It was tough, it took a lot.”

The Springboks came into the tournament considered by many as favourites, despite sharing a fiercely competitive Pool B with Scotland, world No. 1 side Ireland, Tonga and Romania. 

A record 35-7 win against New Zealand in their final warm-up game only increased the hype, but Nienaber insists that result was irrelevant and that his side is working on a one-game-at-a-time basis. 

“Everybody read a lot into warm-up games and our game against New Zealand. It has no bearing, there’s no pressure, it’s a warm-up game to prepare you for a World Cup,” he said.  

“This is the real thing. There’s a lot of pressure in the World Cup. 

“[Scotland] have the ability to knock off anyone on their day. For us it’s the first step in the right direction. To get out of the pool is going to be massive, we knew that. 

“Our next focus is Romania [on 17 September]. We need to make sure we won’t even think about Ireland.”

One moment that caught the eye in Marseille was the Springboks coaching staff using a bright traffic light to communicate between the technical area and the touchline. 

But Nienaber insists the method is only used for medical issues, not to influence tactical decisions for players on the pitch - such as kicking for the posts or the corner.

“I don’t think you need any permission from World Rugby. It’s a method,” he said.

“When I was at Munster the calls were red if it’s a serious thing where we must consider a substitution, amber to give a guy five or 10 minutes to see if he’s okay, and green was he can go on.

“It’s something we used at Munster in 2016/17 and we continue with it. It’s just an easy way. If we talk on the radio we want to talk tactics, so to talk to medical people about injuries just consumes the channels.”

Meanwhile, Springboks captain Siya Kolisi admitted he was disappointed by the first-half performance after his side went in at the break with a narrow three-point lead and on the back of losing two scrums.  

“We didn’t start the way we normally start, with the intensity that we wanted to bring,” Kolisi said. 

“That’s a big thing about us – intensity should be there and that wasn’t up to standard for us.

“The conversations are clear. Anything they [the coaches] say to us, we already know because we think the same. 

“We just told ourselves that we’ve got to cut out the errors, as simple as that, because the set piece is important, so we came out with energy.”