Character key in series triumph

John Smit says past adversities prepared his Springboks for a memorable come-from-behind victory over the Lions.

The Boks provided a second-half showing that better exemplified their heart than their ability. Substitute Jaque Fourie scored a late try and Morne Steyn kicked a last-minute conversion to win the match, but aside from this late surge on the scoreboard, Smit praised his team for their composure.

‘It was a very tight game, and we’re delighted with the result,’ the Bok captain told keo.co.za. ‘There were some firm words at half-time and then some good words at full-time. This is a special team and it was a great result.

‘We probably made the worst possible start [when Schalk Burger was sin-binned in the first 30 seconds]. Being man down made it an uphill battle, but we’ve been in worse situations.

‘A lot of character has been built up over the years and we’ve been in that dark place before. We had the ability to find victory in that very dark room. That past experience certainly helped up us.’

The Lions will bemoan Burger’s eye gouge that was only punished with a yellow card. The fact that the Boks played poorly for the majority of the match did not bother Smit, who has now led the Boks to a win over the Lions as well as leading them to victory in the 2007 World Cup.

‘I’m sure the Lions were gutted to lose to a kick like the Boks did 12 years ago. Having said that, I thought they played very well. In the build up to this week, we spoke about standards and we are still not hitting the button.

‘We began to get more momentum in the second half, and then Morne stepped up to take that big kick. It’s at times like those when I’m glad I scrum and don’t kick. We saw Willem de Waal do a similar thing for the Emerging Boks earlier in the week.

‘Morne’s got huge temperament, and after his performance in the Super 14, I was glad it was him taking the kick.’

Bok coach Peter de Villiers preferred to concentrate on the result rather than any potential citing for Burger’s eye gouge. If convicted, Burger will not only miss the third Test, but in all probability the Tri-Nations as well.

‘Shit man, there was a lot of needle in that game and I think a lot of other yellow cards were missed [by referee Christophe Berdos]. I know people will say things about it but that is their opinion. If there is no problem with Schalk’s tackle, he will play again next week.

‘We will remain humble in victory but it does feel great to win the series. I’m sure the whole of South Africa will be feeling great for the next 12 years,’ De Villiers said.

‘All the talk before the series was about that one drop goal [by Jeremy Guscott]. Now all the talk will be about that one penalty by Morne.

‘We always knew our substitutes were going to play a part. This is professional sport and you don’t play the game with just 15 guys. We expect our subs to step up when called upon,’ he added.

De Villiers refused to confirm whether Steyn will replace flyhalf Ruan Pienaar for the final Test in Johannesburg. The team for that clash will be announced on Tuesday.

By Jon Cardinelli, at Loftus Versfeld