Rassie Erasmus said South Africa left plenty of room for improvement despite thrashing Namibia 57-3 at the Rugby World Cup.
But the Springboks boss felt difficult conditions were again a factor in Toyota City on Saturday, where his team scored nine tries but found the humidity a challenging obstacle to performing at their fluent best.
The heat, and its intensity, has been a challenge for most teams in the tournament, leaving the ball slippery and players swiftly coated in sweat.
Erasmus believes the problem will pass later in the tournament, as the climate changes, but for now he says it is “tough for everybody”.
That problem did not prevent the Springboks dominating from start to finish against Namibia, however, with Makazole Mapimpi’s try double taking him to 10 five-pointers in 10 Tests for South Africa. Only Rieko Ioane and Joe Taufete’e, both with 12, have scored more tries in Test rugby than Mapimpi since his debut in June 2018.
Bongi Mbonambi also grabbed two tries, with the hooker burrowing over from close range on each occasion against unsteady Namibian defence.
After last weekend’s defeat to New Zealand, the objective was straightforward for South Africa.
“We needed to bounce back and to win,” Erasmus said.
He added: “For us, I think a few boxes ticked. Certainly not a perfect performance; certainly a lot of work still to do.
“It wasn’t a wonderful performance but it was a solid performance. I think it was the first 50-pointer in the World Cup so that’s not too bad.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 28, 2019
Ball-handling was an issue that affected Ireland in their shock defeat to hosts Japan earlier in the day, and after watching that match in its entirety on television, Erasmus insisted it was a serious factor for teams to contend with.
“It’s difficult to explain to people how tough it is to handle in those conditions,” he said.
“It’s always easy the first 15 or 20 minutes. The ball’s going to stick, and then after that it’s going to be almost impossible to handle the ball.”
Erasmus added: “I think after the pool games, according to what players who’ve played here before and some of the coaches who’ve coached here in Japan have told me, there’s a sudden change in two or three weeks’ time; not so much in the temperature but the humidity changes quite quickly, and I think then handling the ball gets a little bit easier.
“There might be one or two upsets in the pool stages but when you get to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, final, then the best team probably will win, because that humidity factor won’t play such a big role.
“A classic example was probably today with Ireland and Japan, just because of the way Japan are used to this and the way they handle the ball.
“Ireland are a team that love to keep ball in hand, although they do have a great kicking game. I watched that game right to the end and only went to the warm-up after that game was finished.
“It definitely changes your approach. I don’t think you will adapt in the next week or two, and all of a sudden it probably will go away. It’s tough for everybody.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 28, 2019
Schalk Brits began the match at number eight, rather than his usual hooker berth, and said South Africa delivered “a great performance”.
“Whatever the coach wants, I’ll play. Just to be on the pitch with such a great bunch of boys, it’s phenomenal,” said 38-year-old Brits.
South Africa move on to face Italy next and cannot afford to stumble against the Azzurri, who have beaten Namibia and Canada so far.
“They’ll bring different challenges,” Brits said. “We’ve watched both of their games and it’s a great side with Conor [O’Shea] in charge.
“We’ll analyse them and hopefully we can outsmart them.”
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