Rassie Erasmus says the Boks’ recent performances against the All Blacks have made him hopeful of the team’s chances at next year’s World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In each of the last three Tests between the Springboks and All Blacks, the margin of victory has been two points or less.
Although the Kiwis have come out on the winning side on two occasions, the Springboks will be buoyed by the memory of claiming their first win in New Zealand for the first time since 2009 earlier this season.
Gradually, the signs suggest that the gulf between the two teams is beginning to diminish.
‘There isn’t much that has separated the sides over the last few games, and it gives me hope,’ Bok coach Rassie Erasmus commented on Saturday.
‘We play each other one more time next year and then in our opening game of the World Cup. It [recent results] tells me that if we do a few things right and give some guys a few more caps in pressure situations, then we can be in with a chance at the World Cup next year.’
Despite last Saturday’s disappointing final outcome, Erasmus said he was definitely happy with the progress being made by the Boks.
‘We’re starting to understand our roles and how we must manage games better. Overall as a country, I think belief is growing and the fans are coming back. We want it to stay that way. South African rugby fans aren’t stupid, and so hopefully the increase in support at the grounds that we are seeing is an indication that the people can see we are progressing.’
Erasmus added that he had been particularly pleased by the ‘tactical’ side of the Boks’ performance last Saturday.
‘We knew the All Blacks were going to come with a big backlash. So we knew we’d have to match them both physically and tactically, and I really thought we handled them in that regard for most of the match.’
All Blacks captain Kieran Read also emphasised that the Boks remained a team that they held in the highest regard.
‘The Boks already showed in Cape Town last year what they are capable of, and we just snuck across the line in that game. When the Boks turn up, they’re a difficult team to beat, and again they’ve demonstrated that this year.
‘I look at their team, and they’ve always had a strong forward pack, but they’ve also got some smart men [among the backs], and real attacking threats out wide. I think it’s going well [for the Boks], and we respect them for that.’
When such comments were relayed to Bok captain Siya Kolisi, he said it was humbling to hear that the team’s efforts were being recognised.
‘We’ve been pushing really hard at trying to win back respect, and although we know we aren’t exactly where we want to be, we are proud of where we’re going as a team.’
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images