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Springbok comeback victory a sign of character

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus. (Photo By Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Roar Guru
10th June, 2018
79
1522 Reads

You would be forgiven if after the first 25 minutes at Johannesburg you thought the Test match between South Africa and England was done and dusted, with the tourists up 24-3.

The momentum was such that every bounce of the ball, every unnecessary error possible went England’s way.

But then the tide turned.

The Springboks struck back with four tries in the next quarter, with Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and S’busiso Nkosi’s two scores seeing the home team go into halftime with a lead of 29-27.

Suddenly, this inexperienced Bok team started to look confident.

The second half was more like traditional Test match rugby. At 50 minutes, Handre Pollard landed a penalty, edging South Africa further ahead, and but for two missed penalties, they could have stretched the gap from five to 11.

Then, in the 60th minute, Mako Vunipola was carded for a late shoulder hit on Faf de Klerk and South Africa obliged with a try, stretching the lead to 12 points.

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During the yellow card period, England struck back with a try of their own and the deficit was restored.

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In the end, South Africa held on for a crucial victory – it would have been disastrous for Rassie Erasmus’ men to lose successive Tests at the beginning of his tenure.

There weren’t any really poor performances, however defence is something Erasmus will need to focus on. From the opening minute, it was clear the back line didn’t know each other well and the defensive combinations and structures weren’t working.

Out wide, England found oodles of space and the hesitation in the SA midfield defence meant that the backline defence shifted in, only to provide the necessary space out wide.

There were also some poorly executed tackles – Pollard, in particular, was disappointing, his tackling technique was to go very low and that meant he was largely ineffectual.

The Springboks showed a willingness to retain posession and there were some silky skills on show, but then there were also some horribly risky passes and offloads as well.

Dwayne Vermeulen, RG Snyman, Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and S’busiso Nkosi were the standouts, but credit should go to Siya Kolisi and his senior players, who managed to keep the team calm and keep believnig in their processes.

It is too early to tell whether this Bok team will be consistently successful, but it delivers in spades the belief that Rassie is transforming Springbok rugby into a team for all people of South Africa, a team that looks to be more flashy in attack and knows how to score points.

All they need now is attitude in defence and to grow – the longer Erasmus can stick to a core selection, the better the combinations will function.

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What I loved about the 50,000-plus crowd in Johannesburg was the diversity, celebrating their first black Springbok captain’s win.