JOHANNESBURG – New Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has praised his captain Siya Kolisi and the senior members of his squad after they helped turn around a 21-point deficit to win 42-39 in the first Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The new-look Boks, with three debutants in the mix and coming off a loss to Wales in Washington last weekend, were rocked by three England tries inside 20 minutes, but the Boks hit back in the latter stages of the first half to take a lead into halftime. They then powered on in the second spell and registered close win after 80 minutes.
Sbu Nkosi got two tries on debut and played a part in another, while overseas-based players Duane Vermeulen, Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk all contributed significantly to the victory.
“We certainly didn’t want to start like that,” said Erasmus about his team conceding three early tries. “But I think the players were nervous. Credit to Siya though and the senior players who helped turn things around. It could have gone badly wrong for us.
“At the end we scraped through, but it showed we have character in this team, and there’s something there to build on.”
Kolisi, who became the Springboks’ first black captain, said he was well supported by his fellow seniors. “We all took charge, calmed the guys down. There was no panic, and that was a good thing.”
England boss Eddie Jones said he was disappointed that his team had lost, but he was happy for the Boks, Kolisi and South African rugby.
“It was a wonderful game of Test rugby. We were excellent in the first 20 minutes and then maybe got seduced by the score,” he said. We showed courage and spirit to get back in it at the end, but congratulations to South Africa.
“This was a big moment for the country... to win your first game at Ellis Park as captain... it’s a great thing for Siya and South Africa.”
The second Test is in Bloemfontein this coming weekend. “It’s all set up now to be a great Test series,” said Jones.