Allister Coetzee hails skipper Adriaan Strauss and match-winner Morne Steyn after Springbok victory over Wallabies
South Africa beat Australia 18-10 in Pretoria to snap three-test losing steak in the Rugby Championship
Coach Allister Coetzee hailed skipper Adriaan Strauss and match-winner Morne Steyn after South Africa ground out an 18-10 Rugby Championship victory over Australia in Pretoria on Saturday.
Hooker Strauss gave his best performance for the Springboks this season as they snapped a three test losing streak that triggered fierce public and media criticism.
Recalled flyhalf Steyn scored all the South African points from four penalties and two drop goals as the hosts survived a second half battering before stretching a 12-10 half-time advantage.
“The value of Adriaan as a leader and as a hooker was there for all to see this evening,” Coetzee said after his record improved to four victories in eight tests since succeeding Heyneke Meyer last April.
Watch: South Africa v Australia highlights
He said the official man of the match showed “great character” in front of a near-capacity crowd in the 51,000-seat Loftus Versfeld stadium, where Strauss plays for Northern Bulls.
“Morne justified his inclusion,” said Coetzee, who axed younger flyhalf Elton Jantjies after a series of below-par performances in the southern hemisphere championship.
“Steyn showed this evening that he is still a test match player. He remains proud to play for the Springboks.”
The playmaker, who overtook retired Percy Montgomery as the most prolific Springbok penalty kicker with 149 successes, said he was thrilled to silence critics.
“It is tough coming back from three consecutive losses,” he said. “We have lots of critics and this victory was a great way to shut them up.”
Coetzee said the victory over the Wallabies was timely after away losses to Argentina, Australia and world champions New Zealand.
“It was an important win, not only for our confidence, but also our self belief,” he added.
“I am a very happy man and will never underestimate any test win. For a team that had their backs to the wall, a win like this means a lot and is a definite confidence booster.”
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) October 1, 2016
Coetzee said the Springbok defence was a source of pride after the qualifications of the assistant coach responsible for it, Chean Roux, had been questioned by the media.
“Our defence was outstanding,” the coach said. “I must give credit to Chean as he worked very hard this week to get everyone on the same page.”
Although South Africa failed to score a try for the first time in eight matches this year, Coetzee was not downbeat.
“We were good with ball in hand, we moved well, but our continuity was not what it should have been,” he said.
Leading 10-3 after prop Scott Sio scored his first test try, Australia conceded a string of late first half penalties when fullback Israel Folau was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Steyn kicked three for a 12-10 half-time lead, and slotted another penalty and a drop goal in the closing minutes to confirm Loftus Versfeld as a hoodoo ground for the Wallabies.
Australia have played South Africa there seven times and lost all seven, including a 61-22 thrashing 19 years ago.
But captain and hooker Stephen Moore said there was no mental block about Loftus, a Springbok stronghold.
“Absolutely not,” he stressed. “Previous results there had nothing to do with our performance this evening.
“Our shape was a little bit out – the outcome had nothing to do with playing at Loftus. That is peripheral.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika, recently accused of being in charge of the worst Wallabies team of all time by former New Zealand handler Graham Henry, lamented wasted scoring opportunities.
“Had we taken them, especially when we dominated the second half, we would have won the game,” he said.
Winger and long-range goal-kicker Reece Hodge missed three shots at the posts after centre Bernard Foley slotted a penalty and a conversion from shorter distances.