JOHANNESBURG - The Springbok bench bombed, the All Blacks bench rocked. This has been one of the major talking points following the Boks’ last-gasp defeat by the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Steve Hansen’s men turned around a 17-point deficit midway through the second half to triumph 32-30; the All Blacks’ winning try and conversion coming from replacement players - Ardie Savea and Richie Mo’unga.
At the same time, in the dying minutes of the encounter with the result in the balance, the Boks were without several of their star performers on the day. Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk had been replaced by Damian Willemse and Embrose Papier respectively while new prop Vincent Koch gave away a crucial penalty and Malcolm Marx, the Man of the Match, watched from the sidelines.
Erasmus said at no stage did he feel his team had won the game, resulting in his making the several late changes. “They’re the No 1 team and shown many times that it’s in their culture and spirit to fight back. I was never comfortable we had it in the bag,” he said.
He further explained the scenario around emptying his bench late on. “Willie had concussion, Faf was cramping. Those are big decision-making positions, and the subs that came on will learn (from the experience).
“The New Zealand subs did better than ours, but that’s what you get with experience. I don’t think the performance of the replacements was the difference between winning and losing. But, that said, I haven’t given my replacements as much time as I would have liked ... because of the pressure to win, the situation we’ve found ourselves in ... and it showed. The All Blacks had experience (coming on), while our boys are still learning.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said his bench players had done everything they’d trained to do. “They did what was asked of them ... they provided energy and did their job."