BLOEMFONTEIN – Allister Coetzee has said his team’s 27-27 draw with the Wallabies here on Saturday felt like a loss.
For the second time this season and in this year’s Rugby Championship the Springboks and Australians drew a game; the first coming in Perth three weeks ago when the score was 23-23.
Bok flyhalf Elton Jantjies missed an 80th-minute penalty that would have won the game for the under-pressure Boks had it gone through the uprights.
Coetzee’s men have only got the better of Argentina this season, home and away, and next face the All Blacks at Newlands in Cape Town next Saturday.
The last time they met, the New Zealanders won 57-0 in Albany two weeks ago.
“It’s always difficult at home... it feels like a loss,” said Coetzee after Saturday’s match.
“But I’m proud of the team, and the effort they put in and the way they played. It’s been a tough two weeks. The players showed great character, and they were tested out there after an emotional week.
“I’ve got no problem with the effort and the mindset is also right... the way we want to play. We created a lot of opportunities and that’s a massive positive, but we didn’t take them all, and at the end, I suppose you could say it was a game of missed opportunities.
“I think this team can feel they were better than the Wallabies. We’re taking the right steps in the right direction.”
The All Blacks, though, are expected to pose many more questions of the Boks’ defence than the Wallabies did, and Coetzee knows it’s going to take something special if his side are to come out on top in Cape Town.
“Now we can focus on next week. We’re playing a very good All Blacks side... and we’d be living in a fool’s paradise if we thought we could topple them. We’ll keep building and keep taking strides... but we’ll be ready for them,” Coetzee said.
Wallabies boss Michael Cheika also felt his side should have, and could have won. “I’m very disappointed in the result. I thought we worked hard enough to get a win, but it wasn’t to be.
“We worked out their strategy pretty quickly, to try to run us off our feet and take away our puff. But we defended well and at the end, I felt we managed the altitude factor pretty well.”
One of the major talking points of the match was the tackle on Bok wing Dillyn Leyds by Wallaby fullback Israel Folau.
It appeared Folau had taken Leyds out by grabbing at his hair, which resulted in Bok captain Eben Etzebeth seeing red and charging into the tackle situation.
Only a penalty was awarded against the Wallabies by New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe, something that infuriated the Bloemfontein crowd and the Bok players. Cheika, though, afterwards said there was no way Folau had grabbed Leyds by the hair, but the Bok winger said otherwise.
“He definitely grabbed me by the hair, twice in fact.”
Coetzee said he would leave the matter in Sanzaar’s hands, while Cheika voiced his disapproval of Etzebeth, who he said had charged in with a leading elbow, but no action was taken against him.