Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk’s substitutions in the loss to the All Blacks were injury-enforced. JON CARDINELLI reports from Pretoria.
The Boks went down 32-30 to the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. The reaction of the players after the final whistle said it all. After leading 30-13 after 59 minutes, the Boks should have closed out the game.
The Boks lost some momentum when a few of their players were taken off in the second half. Afterwards, Erasmus explained that his hand was forced with regards to the changes at fullback and scrumhalf. Damian Willemse replaced Le Roux while Embrose Papier came on for De Klerk.
‘Why did I make the substitutions? Because people have been asking me to give the other guys [such as Willemse and Papier] a chance,’ the Bok coach joked, before relaying his reasons.
‘Willie got a concussion and failed his HIA. Faf was cramping. So that was two swaps at the same time, with two big decision-makers coming off. Frans Malherbe said he was tired and needed to come off earlier.
‘The players will learn from that experience. There were a few moments where we could have closed it out. We could have gone for the drop goal when we were in their 22, but then Ardie Savea made a turnover.
‘New Zealand made better use of their bench. I also have to take responsibility because I was the one making the subs.’
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confirmed that the visitors took a different approach with regards to the use of their own subs. Both prop reserves, as well as lock Patrick Tuipulotu, were introduced relatively early, while Savea came on for the injured Sam Cane.
‘How you use your bench is a trump card,’ said Hansen. ‘Rassie could afford to go deep into the game before using his bench [as the Boks were on top at that stage] . We had to do it differently.
‘You’ve got players on the bench and there is an expectation for those players to add something to the game. We know that most players can’t play a full 80 minutes. They will run out of petrol, especially in a game as physical and fast as this one.
‘You can’t have momentum for the full 80. South Africa had it for a long time, but we knew that if we kept fronting up and staying in it, our turn would come. We had a bit of luck, but then you still have to make the most of it.’
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