South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus had exaggeratedly suggested he could be looking for a new job if his side had lost to the All Blacks on Saturday, instead a 36-34 win showed his team were moving the right way towards next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The former Springboks loose forward’s side, who had lost to Argentina and then Australia, faced an All Blacks team brimming with confidence and with an eye on wrapping up their third successive Rugby Championship title with two games to spare.
Erasmus, however, said the way his side defended on Saturday “for what felt like hours” as they made 235 tackles to the All Blacks’ 61, showed they could now continue with their plan to ensure they challenge for next year’s global showpiece in Japan.
“When we started planning we thought there’s one way to come back: it’s to beat New Zealand in New Zealand,” Erasmus said after a tumultuous 2017 that saw the Springboks win just seven of their 13 tests, which cost Allister Coetzee his job.
That was a month ago. Then we lost those two games in a row and you lose some belief but we always targeted this game to say ‘we can turn things (around) and be real contenders at the World Cup’.
Erasmus said his plan was to ensure that he had an entire squad that he could trust to implement the game plan without a drop in level or intensity next year in Japan and he would continue to do that in their remaining 10 tests by giving his players the opportunities to prove themselves.
While the Springboks scored five tries and defended as though their team-mates’ lives depended it, Erasmus said that sometimes a little luck could go a long way.
All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett was successful with only two of his six shots at goal, while one of the Springboks’ tries, to replacement winger Cheslin Kolbe, was from an intercept.
They also chanced their arm on defence in the final minute, forcing Damian McKenzie to knock the ball on in the tackle, allowing them to clear into touch and raise their arms in victory.
We were very close to losing three in a row and that puts pressure on a team and takes belief away,” he said. “And we could have lost this game at the last minute. We were a bit lucky but very relieved. No one beats them here, so we’re very privileged to be one of those teams.
Meanwhile Australia loose forward Lukhan Tui is unlikely to travel with the team to South Africa and Argentina after he an altercation with a fan following Saturday’s 23-19 Rugby Championship loss to the Pumas, coach Michael Cheika has said.
Video footage showed the 21-year-old being confronted by a Wallabies fan before they began pushing each other.
Injured centre Samu Kerevi said the man had been swearing at players in the vicinity of their families and had told Tui to “play with some heart”.
The fan was led away by security while Tui, whose stepfather died during the week, was restrained by team-mates.
Rugby Australia is investigating the incident.
“The fact that he (Tui) was even on the field speaks volumes,” Kerevi wrote on his Instagram page.
Australian media widely reported that after the match a distraught Tui had told his team-mates, who wore black armbands in support, that he needed to take a break from the game and would not play again this season.
“We’ll see how the week pans out and go from there,” Cheika told reporters at Brisbane airport yesterday when asked if Tui would travel with the team. “I’d say it’s unlikely, based on what we spoke about last night. His stepfather’s just passed away ... he needs to just be with his family.”
Cheika said while the fan’s reaction was unwarranted, he could understand why there was some frustration with the team’s performances. They have won just two of seven matches this season and Saturday’s result was their first loss to the Pumas in Australia in 35 years.
Bottom of the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies travel to Port Elizabeth to face South Africa on Saturday, September 29 before taking on the Pumas in Salta on October 6.