The Springboks were able to absorb the tremendous early blows England landed in the first Test at Ellis Park on Saturday, turning a 3-24 deficit into a remarkable 42-39 triumph.
It’s a win that coach Rassie Erasmus said will allow him the space to continue on the brave path he has set out on: a journey that is all about next year’s World Cup.
“That was definitely not the start you want at home and I was worried because we had a lot of young guys up against a very experienced England side and it could have gone really bad, we could have ended up with 50 points against us. But we still managed to scrape through and the character of the side shone through.
“Because we were able to come back it means we can have some consistency of selection. But we also have to make brave calls, we have to put guys under pressure and there will be games we lose. But if we don’t put the players in these situations then we will never know if they can make it at the World Cup. The good thing tonight is that we got some more caps and the win.
“A lot of guys came through and now have a little tick behind their names, and it was satisfying to see our selections working. We must be brave otherwise we will end up with a squad of just 14 or 15 players we trust at the World Cup, but you must have 31 players you trust. It was a big risk to split our resources for these first two Tests and I’m glad the strategic plan came off, it could have easily gone against us, but the win gives us some breathing space,” Erasmus said after the thrilling Test match.
Erasmus listed lock RG Snyman, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and eighthman Duane Vermeulen as the players he was especially pleased with, while the defence that leaked three tries in the first 17 minutes and another two in the last 10 minutes is top of the list of things that need work.
“RG was wonderful, to be able to play at that pace and last for 80 minutes was really pleasing, while what Faf brought to the party was awesome. Our breakdown still needs some work, but we didn’t have an out-and-out openside flank. But Duane really came to the party playing against two opensides. But that area of the game can bite us, so we have to think carefully about that before the second Test.
“Most teams defend high on the outside these days, but we just didn’t get enough width. Our two wings and outside centre are still very young, but we cannot neglect defence like we did today,” Erasmus said.