Debutant wingers Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi have hailed the calming influence of the senior players when the Boks fell 24-3 behind against England in Saturday’s series-opening Test, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Boks made the worst possible start to the Ellis Park clash as England scored three times within the opening quarter, with coach Rassie Erasmus having accepted responsibility for a couple of tactical oversights that left his side exposed.
Despite staring at a 21-point deficit early on, the Boks never looked particularly rattled, and ultimately battled back to claim a half-time lead, and eventually a 42-39 victory.
During England’s early attacking barrage, they found space all too easily out wide, but the Boks did well to quickly re-adjust and add greater width to their defence.
As the Springboks regathered some front-foot momentum, the likes of Dyantyi and Nkosi came into their own, with the former insisting that the home side never doubted their ability to mount a comeback.
‘I think over the past few weeks we’ve worked really hard as a team, and the coaches have really looked to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the system,’ said Dyantyi. ‘We just needed to regain some confidence and ascendancy – there are such small margins at this level – and initially, they were in favour of England, but we did really well to fight back.
‘It was a first 20 minutes to forget from a team perspective, but we regrouped well, and I think the senior guys really helped a lot in terms of helping us regain composure and to keep our spirits up,’ said Dyantyi.
It was a similar sentiment shared by Nkosi, who scored two crucial first-half tries.
‘We always knew we were going to win,’ the young Sharks star insisted when he fronted up to a media scrum after the game. ‘They [England] presented a different challenge, but it just needed us to adapt, which we did, and we gained dominance as the game went on… We expected England to kick on us, but soon as we adjusted then I think we handled it well.’
Nkosi explained how the youngsters in the team had been reassured by the composure of the older players, and particularly captain Siya Kolisi.
‘I wasn’t all that nervous in the beginning, but obviously, the team didn’t start on the front foot. However, the more experienced guys did well to bring us into a circle and just told us to calm down and that this sort of thing can happen in Test rugby. So the few little nerves I did have were diminished very quickly.
‘Siya really is a great leader, and he brought out a lot of confidence in the debutants, and that’s why I think we were able to perform as we did.’
Ironically, while the two debut wingers suggested that they hadn’t felt particularly burdened by nerves, Kolisi himself admitted to a few anxious moments as England powered into a commanding early lead.
‘It was quite tough to start off the game like that, and I was pretty nervous. Luckily I had guys alongside me like Duane [Vermeulen], who has been in situations like that before, and Willie [le Roux] and Handré [Pollard] too. We all took charge and just told the guys to calm down because we knew what we were capable of.
‘It was just great to see the guys with new caps not panicking. They just wanted to play. So we decided to take control of the game and play at the pace we wanted to.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images