‘Boks defended for their lives’

Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss believe that the mettle shown by the Springboks in the series decider against Ireland bodes well for the Rugby Championship. JON CARDINELLI reports from Port Elizabeth.

The Boks put in a telling shift on defence at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Overall, the hosts completed 151 of their 169 tackle attempts. According to SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, Ireland had as much as 68% of the possession.

The Boks were under immense pressure in the last 10 minutes of the contest. Ireland kept the ball for 20 phases in one movement, and 21 in a subsequent assault at the death. Ultimately, the Bok defence was equal to the task, and the hosts hung on for a 19-13 win as well as a 2-1 series victory.

‘The guys showed a lot of character in those last few minutes,’ said Strauss afterwards. ‘It was a win-or-lose situation, and the guys defended for their lives.’

Coetzee admitted that the performance wasn’t perfect. The Bok coach did feel, however, that the team had made progress over the past three weeks.

‘I’m proud of this young group of players,’ he said. ‘They pulled it through to win the series. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. It was a fight in the trenches. It was proper Test rugby.

‘There are a lot of things that we need to work on in the coming months. But I am very happy in the sense that we have won the series, and so many young players have received opportunities.’

Coetzee highlighted the spirit shown by the Boks in the dying minutes as the biggest positive.

‘Just watching the fight and the attitude out there, I have to say that I’m happy. To have those ingredients as a new coach, it’s a good place to start.

‘We will have a wash-up over the next few days. There are certain areas that need to improve. The aerial skills can get better, as can the contact skills. Our tactical kicking was better in this match, but there’s still room to grow.’

At the post-match press conference, it was suggested that Coetzee would attend a victory parade in his hometown of Grahamstown next week. The Bok coach denied any knowledge of this parade, and gave the impression that his side wasn’t deserving of such over-the-top celebrations just yet.

‘Save the parade for the 2019 World Cup, after we win it,’ he said.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli