The Junior Springboks will face hosts, Argentina, in the bronze playoff match at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario on Saturday at 18h00 (SA Time), which will be followed by the final between France and Australia at 20h30 (SA Time).
Speaking after the match review on Tuesday, Nhleko said: “Having watched the game again, we are hurting.
“It is not a nice feeling to be in this position, and the worst part of it is that the bulk of the things that went against us were of our own doing. We didn’t stick to our systems or manage the game as we had planned, and through that we put ourselves under a lot of pressure.
“Collectively as management and players, we take responsibility for the below par performance.
“We could not get going in spite of opportunities to bring ourselves back into the game. The match statistics say we were in the contest, but we never felt that way and the scoreboard didn’t go our way either.
“France certainly taught us a few things about being tactically accurate and about decision making.
“It is now a case of learning from this and understanding what we are good at and how to stick to that so that we can get the rewards.”
Nhleko, however, said the team owed it to themselves to make sure they finish the competition on a positive note.
“We are going into our fifth game and it is a difficult one given that we didn’t make it into the final, but the important thing is to understand that we are wearing a South African jersey and badge,” said the assistant coach. “So it is important for us firstly to finish the tournament on a high note, and secondly to make sure as a group that all the work we have put in still becomes relevant in how we perform.”
With a bronze medal at stake and both teams eyeing a strong finish to the showpiece, Nhleko said: “We absolutely have a lot to play for. It’s a big one for them being in this position because they are playing at home, and our consolation is to win as many games as possible and put in a performance we know we are capable of after some of our previous games in the competition.
“Obviously it is not the game we wanted to play in, but it is where we find ourselves, so the most important thing is to go out there and ensure that we are mentally ready to execute and express ourselves within the system, and hopefully get the reward.
“It is important to always remember that we are wearing the green and gold when we step onto the field and that every game matters.”