Pieter-Steph du Toit says the Springboks deserved to be booed at half-time in Saturday’s match against Ireland. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Port Elizabeth.
The Boks produced a listless and lacklustre first-half showing that saw them trailing 19-3 at the break. As the hosts headed to the change room at the break, loud boos rang out at Ellis Park.
After the match, captain Adriaan Strauss downplayed the crowd reaction, while coach Allister Coetzee suggested the boos hadn’t bothered them.
Nevertheless, it was the sort of response from the crowd that could have threatened to either dishearten or galvanise the team after an error-strewn opening half that saw the Boks outplayed in almost every department.
Du Toit admitted that he had been aware of the boos, but also suggested it had actually served to fire him up for the second half, with the Boks ultimately fighting back in an inspired final quarter to clinch a thrilling victory.
‘Our first-half performance was a shocker, the crowd booed us off the field, and I think we actually deserved it. We didn’t play well at all, but I think the second-half performance was 100% better. We showed what we can do, and hopefully next weekend we can start better and ensure we don’t disappoint ourselves and the fans again.
‘It’s difficult to describe the feeling [after being booed], but it actually gives you a bit of anger to come out and show that we’re not that bad, and I think we did that,’ he added. ‘In the first half it felt like we had 15 players on the field, but that no one was playing. We didn’t have any energy in the first half, but in the second half it was a complete turnaround.’
Although the Boks trailed by 16 points at the break, Du Toit reiterated that there was still a belief among the team that they could fight back to win by reverting to their pre-match plans.
‘When we sat in the change room at half-time, I never doubted that we could still win the game. Interestingly enough, Eben [Etzebeth] told me afterwards that he felt the same way. So I think when we have that belief, you can see that we can do it … We had a mindset change when we came on after half-time and everyone lifted their game, which paid off.’
In both Tests so far this series, the Boks have made extremely poor starts, which has allowed Ireland to establish an early foothold in the game.
Du Toit said they simply had to ensure they started Saturday’s third and decisive final Test in Port Elizabeth with more intensity and accuracy.
‘Before the game [at Ellis Park], we were asked how we would play if this was the last Test match we were playing for the Boks, and in the first half we definitely didn’t deliver on that. But in the second half we went back to our game plan, got over the advantage line and provided better opportunities for the backs to attack.’
The Boks arrived in Port Elizabeth on Sunday afternoon and will hold their first training session at the Zwide rugby club on Monday.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images