South Africa’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, has rued ‘soft moments’ that cost his side a famous double over world No 1 side the New Zealand All Blacks, but came away with burgeoning self-belief, despite a heart-breaking two-point defeat (32-30) in a Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The former Munster Director of Rugby, admitted it was dangerous to talk about positives after a defeat but could not deny his satisfaction at the progress made by the team:
“I’m definitely happy with the progress and the growth we have shown. South African rugby fans are not stupid and there will be criticism of this defeat, but we have shown growth and we will cling on to that. The last three games between us have been decided by no more than two points and when we run out against them now, the game can go either way. I’m proud we’ve got back to that position.”
The teams both kicked two first half penalty goals to be tied at 6-6 at the break, but the Springboks scored three second half tries through Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe to take what appeared a commanding 30-13 lead with only a quarter of the match remaining.
Handre Pollard had been flawless from the kicking tee to kick six out of six for a personal haul of 15 points from three conversions and three penalty goals as the clock counted down on what appeared to be near certain victory.
The Springboks held a 12-point advantage going into the final five minutes but the never-say-die All Blacks scored two converted tries in the dying moments of the game to claim a famous victory.
Erasmus admitted to knowing from experience that the All Blacks were capable of coming back, even when they looked beaten:
“I remember from when I was in Ireland, seeing New Zealand come back against the Irish from an impossible position so I never thought the game was in the bag, even with five minutes to go.”
Despite the defeat, the South African Director of Rugby said the performance has given him hope for the future:
“It gives me hope that and belief that if we do a few things right we will be in with a real chance at the next year’s World Cup.”
The Springboks next game is against England at Twickenham on 3rd November.