What a fight­back, raves Rassie

The Sunday Independent - - Sport - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

NEW SPRING­BOK coach Rassie Eras­mus has praised his cap­tain Siya Kolisi and the se­nior mem­bers of his squad af­ter they helped turn around a 21-point deficit to win 42-39 in the first Test against Eng­land at El­lis Park in Joburg last night.

The new-look Boks, with three debu­tants in the mix and com­ing off a loss to Wales in Washington last week­end, were rocked by three Eng­land tries in­side 20 minutes, but the Boks hit back in the lat­ter stages of the first half to take a lead into half-time. They then pow­ered on in the sec­ond spell and regis­tered close win af­ter 80 minutes.

S’bu Nkosi got two tries on de­but and played a part in an­other, while over­seas-based play­ers Duane Ver­meulen, Wil­lie le Roux and Faf de Klerk all con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the vic­tory.

“We cer­tainly didn’t want to start like that,” said Eras­mus about his team con­ced­ing three early tries.

“But I think the play­ers were ner­vous. Credit to Siya though and the se­nior play­ers who helped turn things around. It could have gone badly wrong for us.

“At the end we scraped through, but it showed we have char­ac­ter in this team, and there’s some­thing there to build on.”

Kolisi, who be­came the Spring­boks’ first black cap­tain, said he was well sup­ported by his fel­low se­niors.

“We all took charge, calmed the guys down. There was no panic, and that was a good thing.”

Eng­land boss Ed­die Jones said he was dis­ap­pointed that his team had lost, but he was happy for the Boks, Kolisi and South African rugby.

“It was a won­der­ful game of Test rugby. We were ex­cel­lent in the first 20 minutes and then maybe got se­duced by the score,” he said. We showed courage and spirit to get back in it at the end, but con­grat­u­la­tions to South Africa. This was a big mo­ment for the coun­try... to win your first game at El­lis Park as cap­tain... it’s a great thing for Siya and South Africa.”

The sec­ond Test is in Bloem­fontein on Satur­day. “It’s all set up now to be a great Test se­ries,” said Jones.

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