JOHANNESBURG - It didn’t take long for new Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, to be under the pump. After one game, and one loss, he’s admitted “the heat is on” ahead of the start of this week’s three-Test series against England.
Erasmus, his coaching team, and largely second-string side will arrive back in South Africa on Monday, having lost to an equally under-strength Wales 20-22 in Washington on Saturday, and are under pressure to turn things around against a seemingly stronger opposition in Eddie Jones’ England team.
With 13 uncapped players in the matchday squad of 23, the Boks started badly against Wales, going down 14-3 at the break, then kicked into gear somewhat to close in on a victory, just to lose at the end, following a poor, and charged-down, clearance kick.
“The guys showed determination, but Wales showed better determination in defence, so it’s a bit disappointing,” said Erasmus.
“We played with young guys, guys who got their first caps, so that is a positive, but the reality is it was a Test match and we lost. That hurts, and in a way it nullifies the guys getting their first Test caps.”
Erasmus said Wales’ pressure on the Bok exit - like when Robert du Preez’s clearance kicks were charged down twice in succession at the end of the game, to hand Wales the win - had been a telling factor.
“Their three tries came from our kicking mistakes. Overall, the pressure they put on us, in our half, was good.”
The Boks’ two tries in the second half came from wings Makazole Mapimpi and Travis Ismaiel, and while Erasmus’ team were much-improved in the second 40 minutes, they were far from impressive. And, new cap, scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl, and flank Oupa Mohoje, said they had no excuses.
“We created a few opportunities but didn’t take them, and you can’t afford that in Test rugby,” said the No 9. “An exit error cost us the game and we take the loss personally.”
Added Mohoje: “We knew we would be up against it, with regards to the (difficult) weather conditions, but we had to man up. We can make excuses, but we’re not going to do that. We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting this week.”
Erasmus will now turn his attention to the England series and he admitted after the Wales game his side would be up against it this week. “It’s going to be a proper Test series.
“We have to step up from this (defeat). We’ve lost two in a row now, against Wales (going back to last November’s defeat), England have lost four in a row, so they are under pressure, too.
"The heat is on us, as it is on them. This series will see two countries that are desperate come up against each other. The first Test at Ellis Park will be a massive game.”
Erasmus added he was expecting some “fighting talk” from Jones this week.
“Eddie is a wonderful coach. He’ll have a plan ... he’s a smart coach in the build up (to a Test) ... what he says and does. This week will be no different.
“The positive is we have guys left in South Africa (who didn’t travel to the USA) and they’ll be fresh this week, so there will be no excuses,” said Erasmus.