Springbok coach Allister Coetzee applauded the fighting spirit of his team, following the remarkable comeback that saw the team snatch a 32-26 win over Ireland in the second of three Castle Lager Incoming Series Tests, played at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Ireland led 26-10 with less than 20 minutes to play, but three tries in the final stretch, by Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende, adding to a sublime effort earlier in the second half by debutant Ruan Combrinck, saw the Springboks earn a first win in the series.
Elton Jantjies added 12 points with the boot, through three conversions and two penalty goals.
“We are very satisfied with the win and the way we came back and won it,” said Coetzee.
“Rugby ebbs and flows, but that first half was not good, although we were tactically better than last week. We also looked after the ball, especially in the wide channels. That second half just showed massive character and that was very pleasing.”
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Coetzee predicted that the last 20 minutes will prove decisive with the altitude a factor, but admitted he did not expect the Bok to trail 19-3 at the break.
“The players did not go out there to play badly in the first half,” said Coetzee.
“Lack of discipline cost us as the penalties were breaking our rhythm. Our guys were over eager, I believe. Ireland have a vastly experienced team, especially the backline, we did not. Combinations take time.”
He warned not to write the Springboks off and applauded the impact of the replacements.
“We have been together for 20 days, the comeback showed how much we can achieve and the potential there is,” said Coetzee.
“One of our core values is resilience and that showed. We were in a hole and had to get out. We will become a good team, I know that, tonight was a building block. Don’t write us off yet.
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“The impact from the bench was massive. They turned it around for us. This team is not about 15 players, but rather all 23. Adriaan’s leadership in that time proved crucial and I am pleased in many ways that we are starting to think on the same wave length.
“I am pleased that Ruan Combrinck took his opportunities, as did players such as Julian (Redelinghuys) and Franco (Mostert). Those guys are not Lions players, they are Springboks.”
Springbok captain, Adriaan Strauss, also reflected on the belief that they could still win the match.
“We managed to keep on building momentum and the supporters also got behind us and that shifted the game away from them,” said Strauss. “We realised we had to play much better in the second half, we kept believing in the process and by taking it play by play.”
The squad travels to Port Elizabeth on Sunday to start preparations for the third Test to be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, 25 June.