Faf de Klerk says the Boks never doubted their ability to overturn a 10-point deficit late in the game against Argentina, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Nelspruit.
De Klerk was named Man of the Match on Saturday, and while he joked afterwards that ‘someone must have been paid’ to award him that accolade, it was his incisive run and perfectly weighted offload for Johan Goosen to score that sparked the Bok comeback.
The Boks had fallen 23-13 behind with less than 15 minutes to play, but a late surge enabled them to score 17 unanswered points and salvage a fortuitous victory.
And although the Boks had looked dead and buried, De Klerk said the team drew on their experiences against Ireland in June, when they also mounted a second-half comeback at Ellis Park to clinch a thrilling win.
‘When Argentina scored their second try [to go 23-13 ahead], we got behind the posts and said that we still have 15 minutes, and that there is enough time to score two tries and still go on and win. You could see that everybody stayed calm, and used that experience we’d taken out of the Ireland series. We showed resilience and had the confidence to come out on top if we just stuck to our jobs.’
The Boks also did well to adjust their approach late in the game and begin to kick more off 9, with De Klerk putting up some effective box kicks.
‘The plan was to kick long in the beginning, but they handled that well,’ De Klerk commented. ‘We were able to put them under some pressure when kicking off 9, and that made a big difference. We went into this Test with a set plan, but you have to be able to adapt, see how the opposition responds, and then try to expose their weak point.
‘I think it will give the coach confidence to see that we can adapt our way of playing. That’s what great teams do well, they’re able to adjust when necessary and make good decisions about when to run or when to kick. I think we will get better and better in this regard the longer we play together as a team.’
However, De Klerk admitted he had been frustrated at times with the slow ball at the breakdown, where Argentina once again spoiled to good effect.
Allister Coetzee agreed that the Boks needed to be more clinical at ruck time in order to provide better ball, with the team now moving on to Salta, where they are sure to face another scrap against the Pumas.
‘There’s no doubt that Faf is playing really good rugby at the moment, but of course there can be improvement,’ the Bok coach commented. ‘We need to create a better platform for Faf at the breakdown because Argentina were able to slow the ball down, and he had to go digging for it, which shouldn’t be the case.
'When they were able to slow the ball down, it provided an opportunity for them to set their defensive width. Our ball-carriers could have also done a lot more to get over the advantage line and help create quick ball, and with that Faf will be even more dangerous.’
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images