The All Blacks scored two tries in the final seven minutes to regain the lead and claim a 35-23 victory (halftime 15-10).
“We weren’t as accurate as we were last week and they kept offloading, taking high risks which we didn’t contain that well,” said Nienaber.
“I thought we did well to come back; 15-0 down against the All Blacks is a tough ask to get back into the game, which we managed to do in the back end of the first half and up to 73 minutes. And then we slipped at the back end.”
The Springboks scored tries through Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am while Handre Pollard had a second successive perfect weekend with five out of five successful kicks at goal for 13 points. But the All Blacks’ strong start and finish – scoring a brace of tries in each half in the space of no more than six minutes – gave them a famous victory.
“We would have loved to gain momentum with a win, but we can’t let our heads drop for long,” said Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.
“There are still four more games to go but we have missed an opportunity. New Zealand played really well today; they controlled the game more. We fought back really well in the second but we slipped up in one moment; we fell asleep and that’s what they can do to you when that happens.”
The Springboks created several try-scoring opportunities without reward and also had to overcome the loss to concussion of wing Jesse Kriel in the opening minutes. That placed pressure on the bench with its 6-2 split between forwards and backs.
“We were over the try-line three times but we got zero points for that and rightly so,” said Nienaber.
“But we created the opportunities – just sometimes it goes for you and you score those tries. There were nice opportunities but sometimes it goes against you. The 6-2 bench split sometimes works for you and sometimes against you.
“I think since we have been back, we have coached 45 games and we’ve probably gone with a 6-2 split more than 30 times and it did bring us some positive results with a World Cup win and series victory over the British & Irish Lions, but saying that we know it is a risk if you get a backline injury and it’s just unfortunate.”
Kolisi said the focus was now on the next match against Australia, while praising the 61,500 crowd.
“Since we started playing at home this year the South African public has been next level,” he said. “We don’t take it for granted at all – for people to keep coming out like they have done is special. It might be hostile for our opponents, but we definitely use it for motivation.”
The Springboks next match is against Australia in Adelaide on 27 August.