Rassie Erasmus says a Springbok-laden South Africa A team got the physical workout they needed from their win over the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday, with just over a week to go until the Test series.
SA Rugby’s director of rugby, who coached the team in the absenced of Jacques Nienaber, addressed the media in a virtual press conference with SA ‘A’ captain Lukhanyo Am and said the match turned out as they expected.
Tries from wing Sbu Nkosi and Am put South Africa A 17-3 up at the break in an intensely physical contest, but they were made to defend for large periods of the second half as the Lions grew into the match.
“We expected our guys to run out of steam at the end after being stuck in our hotel rooms for a week and we only had two training sessions together as a team,” said Erasmus.
“The two yellow cards [to Faf de Klerk and Marco van Staden] also certainly did not help our cause in that regard.”
Erasmus described the match as “very intense, maybe not brilliant, but one where a lot of players showed massive guts and endeavour”.
“That type of performance will not win us the Test series though, there is a lot of technical stuff we need to get right before next weekend,” he explained.
“We also got from the Lions what we expected. Their physical approach and slick handling were expected, and they did not disappoint.
“That is exactly what we needed with a week to go before the first Test. We wanted to win this match and I am sure they wanted to as well. Maybe those two tries not given would have counted for them, but it worked in our favour tonight.”
Erasmus said he is pleased that a big chunk of the squad will return from isolation in Johannesburg in the coming days, especially Springbok head coach Nienaber, who together with attack coach Felix Jones, had to coach the team virtually this week.
“Jacques is also the defence coach and this week he was coaching us virtually, so the way our guys responded was great,” said Erasmus.
“A number of players need some game time, but we will address that, as well as how to bring the COVID cases back in and manage their return to play.”
Am said it was a special occasion leading the team and it delivered a great result, while he was also full of praise for the performance of Cheslin Kolbe, who had a massive contribution in his try late in the first half.
“There are lots of leaders in the team and that made my job easy, while I thought Cheslin [Kolbe] was outstanding,” said Am.
“He brings so much energy and class to our team. He is a key performer and showed why. He covered so many positions today, it’s great to have him in the team.”
An injury update will be provided later, but Willie le Roux and Jasper Wiese picked up strains during the game.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images