‘This defines us, not the 57-0 drubbing,’ says South Africa coach Coetzee after agonising loss to All Blacks
New Zealand weather a Springboks storm to win 25-24 and complete another clean sweep of the southern hemisphere tournament
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said his team could have beaten New Zealand on Saturday in a Cape Town thriller they lost 25-24, just three weeks after suffering a 57-0 humiliation in Auckland.
“I think we did enough to win the game, there were just two points needed for us to get over the line,” said Coetzee.
“I feel very sorry for the players because they left everything out there.
“That they were totally committed was the prevalent thing to take away from the game and it shows our processes are on track.
“It was really pleasing to come back from that 57-0 drubbing which we never felt defined this team.”
However, he admitted the methodology behind their impressive Rugby Championship final-round performance at a packed 52,000-seat Newlands stadium would not necessarily work against other teams.
Having been thrashed 57-0 in New Zealand, the Springboks pushed the All Blacks all the way in an absorbing test.
The Springboks pack was superb, carrying the ball ferociously, fighting hard on the gain-line and harrying the visitors at the breakdown.
The lead changed hands several times before a brilliant Damian McKenzie try on 69 minutes helped the All Blacks build an eight-point advantage.
Down to 14 men after Damian de Allende was red-carded, South Africa fought back with a Malcolm Marx try converted by Elton Jantjies narrowing the gap to one point.
The performance had many observers wondering why the Springboks have not played that way in their earlier matches this year.
“It’s not a perfect formula and I believe it’s a positive that we can move between that direct style of play and using more width, and we can also pressure teams with our kicking game,” said Coetzee.
The Springbok coach was full of praise for the outstanding efforts of his forwards.
“Guys like Siya Kolisi, Malcolm Marx and Eben Etzebeth are leading from the front and they were outstanding.
“We have a couple of world-class players in the pack. Our big boys were enormous today.
“They managed to get on top of New Zealand’s big boys, and the big thing was the way they played with ball in hand.
“There’s a great team environment, which is why they leave everything out there.
“They are enjoying their rugby again and want to bring the pride back to the jersey.
“We knew it was just a blip in New Zealand and we knew we must just keep persevering.
“A performance like this must give us belief – the players will get confidence from this.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said South Africa “could be very proud of their performance”.
“It showed what a good rugby side they are. Our side showed tremendous courage and character and had to make a lot of tackles.
“I tried to tell anyone who would listen that Auckland was a ridiculous score that did not reflect how tough the game was.
“Obviously I’m pleased any time we win – it’s easier on the ticker when you win 57-0 – but it gives you greater pleasure when it’s a real contest, and both sides played well tonight,” Hansen said.
New Zealand, who won the Rugby Championship for the fifth time in six attempts before even playing their penultimate match, finished on 28 points from a possible 30.
Australia scored 17 unanswered points in the last quarter of the match to beat Argentina 37-20 in Mendoza and leapfrog South Africa and finish runners-up.