We didn’t panick, says Boks coach, but you could have fooled us

2012-06-18 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer said the Springboks had not panicked in the second half of the Ellis Park Test against England on Saturday.

Heck, he had us fooled.

Sitting in the coaches’ kennel, red-faced, wide-eyed and barking instructions into his walkie-talkie as his team disintegrated, Meyer looked any­thing but the calm, composed mentor of the Springbok rugby team.

Mind you, he had good reason.

The Boks had led by 19 points after the first quarter and then 28-10 early in the second half, seemingly on the way to the most emphatic of series wins. But 15 minutes later, by the start of the final quarter, their lead had been whittled down to just four points (31-27) and injuries, substitutions and a litany of errors had reduced them to an untidy rabble.

Their scrum was a mess, Morné Steyn could not kick straight and England, playing a high-tempo game, had all the momentum and confidence.

It seemed as good a time as any to panic.

But then up popped wing JP Pietersen to split the afternoon with a piece of individual brilliance in first fashioning and then finishing off for the Boks’ fourth try to settle the contest and calm frayed South African nerves.

The Springboks’ strong start, and the rush of points, certainly contributed to their over-confidence in the second half when they lost focus, made mistakes and turned down easy kicks at goals in the search for more tries.

“In the first half we played Super 15 rugby, and it was great to watch,” said Meyer later.

“But to keep playing like that for 80 minutes is tough. You can’t just go out and keep scoring tries. This is Test match rugby and you have to grind it out. We will learn a lot from games like that.”

Injuries — to Pat Lambie, Willem Albert and Juandré Kruger — also disrupted the Boks while Meyer, in seeking to fix what was not broken, replaced the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, and the scrum suffered.

“We lost our way a bit in the second half because our first-phase play wasn’t good enough and we made mistakes that allowed England back into the game,” said Meyer.

“In the first half we showed glimpses of what we are capable of and where we want to go as a team. Injuries played a part in the second half, but I don’t want to make excuses. Credit to England for the way they played in the second half. “

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers paid tribute to Pietersen for his man-of-the-match display, but said he was not happy with the wing’s extravagant swallow dive, close to an English player, in scoring his decisive try.

“I have always rated JP, he is a great all-round player. The first thing I did was speak to him afterwards about the dive behind the line. My heart was in my throat when he did that. But he had a fantastic game and his work-rate was unbelievable. He made a couple of line breaks and defensively he was very sound.”

England coach Stuart Lancaster said he was both proud and frustrated by his team’s performance.

“It was frustrating to come so close, but I’m also delighted with the way the players fought back.”

He also praised the Springboks for their series win.

“Heyneke Meyer is certainly putting together a formidable team,” said Lancaster.

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