23 June 2014
Some would consider it a lucky escape, but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes South Africa’s come-from-behind 31-30 victory over Wales at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday was his best yet with the team.
‘My best win yet’
“This was my best win yet with the team, as these are the matches you coach for,” he said at a post-match press conference.
“We were down and almost out, but the team showed massive character and resolve to pull this one through.”
Facing a fired-up Welsh team, South Africa trailed 0-17 in the first half and later were 17-30 behind with only eight minutes to play. However, with just two minutes remaining in the contest they took the lead for the first time when Morne Steyn knocked over a simple conversion kick after referee Steve Walsh had awarded the Springboks their second penalty try of the match.
‘We had to dig very deep’
“Wins like this stand out, as this is where one’s coaching philosophy and team selection are put under massive pressure. We had to dig very deep against a very good team,” Meyer said.
“It is always difficult playing a tough team in consecutive weeks and we needed some luck out there today. Credit to Wales, who played very well.”
Meyer also said his charges’ win, their 27th in 29 tests against Wales, which includes one draw, was significantly helped by the crowd.
“No one left their seats, even when we were still 10 points behind with six minutes to play and looked likely to lose. That support lifted the team in those last minutes of the match and I want to salute the crowd,” he said.
The Springboks had recorded a convincing 38-16 victory in Durban in the first test, but in Nelspruit they came very close to losing their unbeaten record on home soil against the Welsh. Finishing, said Meyer, was the big difference between that comfortable win and Saturday’s nailbiter.
‘An awesome test match’
“In Durban we took every opportunity we had and scored. This weekend we did not and nearly paid the price. There is not much between the top sides in the world and I am very happy with the final result. It was an awesome test match,” Meyer concluded.
Captain Victor Matfield, who became the most capped Springbok ever by taking the field for his 112th test match, blamed his side’s poor exit play for the narrow victory.
‘It gave them a lot of space to run at us’
“Last week we could get out of our own half and apply pressure to Wales in their half. This time around we did not manage to do that and it gave them a lot of space to run at us.”
On the plus-side of things, he felt the character of the team shone through at the end.
“You need character to win the World Cup and we displayed some of that today. Our defence in the last minutes to win the match was testimony of our will and mind set. We won this by coming back from behind.
“Last week we played well from the start, this time we had to come from behind. We were under massive pressure for most of the match, but came good when it counted.”
‘They got stuck into us’
Matfield also had words of praise for Wales, saying: “With them leading, they had confidence and got stuck into us. We did not retaliate, though, took the pressure well, and responded at the right time.”
After three successive wins against the World XV (47-13), and Wales (38-16 and 31-30), the Springboks next face Scotland in a one-off test in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
A good number of changes are on the cards for the Boks, with their English- and French-based players – Gurthro Steenkamp, Schalk Brits, Bakkies Botha, Francois Louw, Morne Steyn, Wynand Olivier and Bryan Habana not available for the match.
Two additions to the Springbok squad were announced on late on Saturday, with Junior Springbok captain and IRB Junior Player of the Year Handre Pollard and hooker Adriaan Strauss being called up. Strauss, a Bok regular, had been sidelined by a suspension.
“I’ve always rated Handre very highly and with Morne returning to France and Johan Goosen struggling with a knee injury, we decided to bring him in,” Meyer commented.
“Adriaan has been with us since June 2012 and has played in every test in the last two seasons. He knows our structures well and will slot back in with no hassle.”