Johannesburg (AFP) – South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus heralded his team’s defiant 42-39 Test win over England in Johannesburg on Saturday under their first black captain Siya Kolisi.
Erasmus, who acknowledged there is a formidable task ahead, paid special tribute to Kolisi’s much-anticipated debut as Springboks captain, saying “well done to Siya… there were a lot of mistakes, but we came back.
“We definitely got the home start we wanted. It could have gone really badly,” he added following the first Test of three against England.
Trailing by 21 points after 18 minutes, South Africa staged a magnificent rally to lead 29-27 at half-time and held off a late England charge to succeed in a 10-try festival.
Erasmus said that the Springboks’ performance had made assembling the squad for the Tests in Bloemfontein and Cape Town on the next two weekends simpler.
“Because we came back it made it easier to get consistency in the team selection,” he said. “We had great guys on the bench.”
Erasmus added that the team’s recent long-haul flight from the United States to South Africa after a loss to Wales had been a concern, but ultimately did not hamper the performance.
“I was always worried about that flight back from the States,” he said.
Erasmus also praised his side’s strong attacking game.
“We were good for a team that usually is known for just giving the ball back.
“There’s a lot of things to work on… but we’re getting there with attack.”
Asked what was the turning point for the Springboks’ comeback, Erasmus admitted they mistakenly believed England “were going to kick”.
“I thought we were just going to receive kicks and we would never have to defend,” he said. “I think I got that a bit wrong and that surprised the team.
“Once we saw that, we had to change it.”
Loose forward Kolisi, the 61st captain of the Springboks in their 127-year history, said: “Obviously I was very nervous… luckily the guys have been in situations like that before.
“The new caps wanted to play and we decided to take control of the game.”
Asked about the huge build-up and speculation ahead of his first outing as a Test captain, Kolisi said: “To be honest the most important thing was to play as a team… to make sure we came here prepared for the game.
“We did what we wanted to do, the hard work we put in during the week paid off.
“I knew how important this game was to us as a team.”