JOHANNESBURG - Rassie Erasmus said Saturday’s first Test win against England at Ellis Park gave him some breathing room ahead of the second Test, but he said the Springboks would have to improve in several areas before going into the Bloemfontein game.
The Boks turned around a 24-3 deficit in Erasmus’ second Test in charge to win 42-39 in a pulsating game on Saturday, for his first win as Bok boss. It was a historic day for South African rugby with Siya Kolisi becoming the first black Bok captain.
While the Boks were rocked early by three England tries, they hit back in the middle stages of the match to register some wonderful tries themselves to ensure they started the three match series on the right foot. Erasmus’ decision to back rookie wings Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi, with a try and a brace respectively, debutant lock RG Snyman and three overseas-based men in Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen paid off handsomely as all of them contributed significantly to the win.
Erasmus said he was happy with certain aspects of his team’s performance - especially the efforts put in by the youngsters - but that the defence and breakdown needed plenty of attention. The Boks leaked three soft tries early on to be on the back foot.
“We didn’t get enough width out wide ... but we had two young wings and an outside centre (Lukyanho Am) who are new at this level. Of course they were also nervous in the first few minutes ... and England exploited us out wide with pin-point passing and kicking,” explained Erasmus. “Once we got width it went well (in defence).
“But the defence is something we must work on. The guys must also get used to it, and each other. At Test level it’s a high speed game; it’s not Super Rugby. But, at the same time we must keep up our attack.”
The Bok boss was also somewhat concerned about the breakdown, suggesting his team had got “a little lucky” at times against the experienced England forwards. “We’re going to have to give it some attention. We don’t have an out-and-out fetcher ... but the win helps to give me space to breathe.”
From an attacking perspective, the Boks did well at times, with the backs playing with speed and width, something that pleased Erasmus. “The attack was good for a team that is more renowned for kicking the ball back,” he said. “I’m glad we attacked with freedom. We made a lot of errors, too, but we’re getting there.”
Winning after being so far behind and playing without several first choice men - like Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx among others - spoke of the character in the side, and Erasmus said he was pleased with his team’s fighting spirit.