JOHANNESBURG - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has lauded the performance and leadership of his captain Siya Kolisi, whose team finished second in the Rugby Championship at the weekend.
The Boks, under Kolisi’s captaincy, beat the All Blacks in Wellington in a famous triumph three weeks ago and almost made it a double over the world champions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but for a late implosion which saw the visitors score two converted tries in the final five minutes to win a pulsating clash 32-30.
Kolisi, who took charge of the Boks in June, was one of several stars in the heart-breaking defeat. His bust through the All Blacks defences in the second half and offload in the tackle sent centre Damian de Allende on his way to the tryline.
Erasmus said on Saturday that while he always backed Kolisi as team leader, none of his players ever felt the need to prove critics and doubters wrong. “We never go out there to prove someone wrong ... we’re out there to win rugby matches for South Africa,” said Erasmus.
“I always backed him (Kolisi). He knows he didn’t play well in June (against England), but he’d just been made captain and had to get used to all that stuff. Now he’s running into space, he’s running over guys, and his play is matching his leadership,” the coach said.
Other Bok players who bettered their more illustrious All Blacks opponents on Saturday were Willie le Roux, centres De Allende and Jesse Kriel, who performed far better than the highly-fancied Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty, while the Bok halfbacks, Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk, bested Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith.
Up front, Kolisi was well supported by Pieter-Steph du Toit again, while Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff stood out. All Blacks captain Kieran Read also praised some of the Bok players. “Pollard has come into his own at flyhalf, while the wings have scored some great tries; they certainly keep our attention.”
Kolisi said it was frustrating to have come so close to beating New Zealand again. “Soft moments cost us,” he said. “We didn’t deserve to lose, but they fought until the end and took their opportunities.
"We only switched off for a split second, so that’s something to work on going forward. We badly want to win back our respect so it’s tough (to lose in such a manner), especially when you’ve worked so hard.”