JOHANNESBURG - The rivalry is back and, according to Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus, it’s good to be a contender again, especially with the World Cup in Japan now just a year away.
That was the mood in the Bok camp following the team’s heart-breaking 32-30 Rugby Championship loss to the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday. Erasmus said the fact the last three meetings between the arch-rivals had been decided by only a few points meant there was now little to choose again between the teams.
“I don’t want to sound positive after a loss, but I really think the rivalry is back (between the two teams),” said Erasmus after his team did everything right to beat the New Zealanders after going 30-13 up midway through the second half on Saturday.
But, three late tries by the visitors - two of which came in the final five minutes - stunned the Boks, who’d won 36-34 in Wellington three weeks ago. In the corresponding fixture at Newlands last year the All Blacks edged the Boks 25-24 in the first of what have been three straight epic encounters between the teams.
“What’s great is that when New Zealand and South Africa run onto the field now, whether it’s home or away, you just don’t know who’s going to win, and that gives me a lot of hope,” said Erasmus. “If we do a few things right (going forward), we’ll be in with a chance.
"I’m so pleased with the growth of this team, the progression we’ve made. I know there will be negative comments (after this loss), because our fans are not stupid, but there’s definitely been growth and we’ll cling to that. It’s nice to be a contender again.”
Erasmus said he was especially satisfied with his team’s execution of the game-plan. “That was one of the best tactical performances in a while,” said the Bok boss, whose team finished second on the Rugby Championship table with three wins from six. Overall, Erasmus’ record this year is, played 10, won five.
“I thought we managed them (the All Blacks) physically and tactically for 72 minutes. We made a few errors late on, but we also have to acknowledge they did a helluva lot right in the final 10 minutes.”