South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus praised his side’s character after they recovered from a shocking start to beat England in the first Test.
Having lost his opening match in charge against Wales a week ago, Erasmus must have feared the worst when he watched the Springboks fall 24-3 down in the opening half at Ellis Park.
However, the hosts produced a sensational comeback, running in four tries – two of them from debutant winger Sibusiso Nkosi – to turn the game around before the break.
Aphiwe Dyantyi touched down in the second half and while England threatened late on, scoring two late tries, South Africa held on for a thrilling 42-39 triumph in a pulsating series opener.
“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was worried, because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side,” Erasmus told South Africa Rugby’s official website.
“It certainly could’ve gone from bad to worse, but credit to Siya (Kolisi), Duane (Vermeulen), Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) and Handre (Pollard), our senior players, for getting us back on track. Still, we only scraped through in the end and we made too many errors, so there is a lot for us to work on.
“When we managed to keep the ball, England were under the same stress we were early in the game.
“I’m proud of the guys – they showed character and it’s something we can take forward.”
Siya Kolisi, who captained the Boks for the first time, said: “I was very nervous as we didn’t expect to have such a tough time early in the game, but we have guys who had been in situations like that before.” pic.twitter.com/nXo21C8ZET
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) June 9, 2018
Despite the fighting spirit shown by his players, Erasmus admitted there were obvious areas of improvement to be focused on ahead of the second Test, which takes place in Bloemfontein next Saturday.
Tries from Maro Itoje and Jonny May clawed England back within three points of their hosts in the closing stages, but Eddie Jones’ side ran out of time at the end of a see-saw contest.
“There were some great individual performances, but we still made too many unnecessary errors and we have a lot to work on,” Erasmus added.
“Looking back, we probably got out of jail free today, but just as they could have put us away, we could have put them away.
“Next week’s Test in Bloemfontein will be massive.”
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