JOHANNESBURG - A happy Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said it “always feels good” to give something back to the fans, following his team’s remarkable Rugby Championship win against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday.
Kolisi and his team-mates arrived back in South Africa on Sunday night after beating Kieran Read’s men 36-34 to keep alive the Boks’ slim chances of still winning this year’s competition.
With two wins from four games and two games to play – against Australia and New Zealand in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria respectively – the competition isn’t over just yet. “It was a good win and we appreciate all the support from the fans, it means so much to us. It always feels so good to be able to give something back,” said the popular captain.
A year ago the Boks returned to the same airport – OR Tambo – having copped a 57-0 hiding in Albany by the same All Blacks. While Kolisi said the team were overjoyed by the change in fortunes, he admitted there was a lot of work ahead for the team.
“It’s a great feeling ... the flight home was much easier (than last year’s),” said Kolisi. “The tough question is how do we play with that kind of energy and determination every week? We spoke about it after the game, what we need to do to keep it going. It’s the best game we’ve played defensively ... and the standard is now set. We need to build from this result now.”
Asked what was going through his mind in the last 10 minutes of the clash, with the All Blacks launching attack after attack, Kolisi said he was more focused on his job, than the result, which was in the balance.
“For some reason we weren’t too nervous. You know when you know, I felt it,” said the flanker. “I could see the guys were defending well. Sometimes you get lucky, and we did have some luck, but I was confident the guys would make their tackles.
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“And for Aphiwe (Dyantyi) to make that last tackle (on Damian McKenzie) at the end was special. It shows we are growing as a team. I was never thinking about winning the game. All I thought about was if I was giving my best for the team.”
The Boks made a staggering 226 tackles on Saturday to deny the All Blacks, who though they out-scored the visitors six tries to five were unable to make more of their dominance in the possession and territorial departments.
Expectations will now inevitably grow and there will be a new kind of pressure on the team to ensure they pick up wins in Port Elizabeth (against Australia) next Saturday and in Pretoria (against New Zealand) a week later. “It’s a simple thing really. We just need to keep working hard because that’s what got us the win on Saturday, with a bit of luck,” Kolisi added.