'Not World Cup-winning standard yet'
REACTION: Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus toned down the praise of his team after their one-sided win over Italy on Friday.
South Africa put one foot in the World Cup quarterfinals with a comprehensive 49-3 victory over 14-man Italy on Friday.
The result left both teams on 10 points, but the Boks will bid for another full five points when they round off their Pool B campaign against whipping boys Canada in Kobe on Tuesday.
Italy, however, is left with a testing game against in-form defending champions New Zealand – who first take on Namibia on Sunday – in Toyota on October 12.
Erasmus repeated his pre-match statement that the encounter with the Azzurri was a ‘crunch game’ for his team.
“It looked easy, but it was a fairly slippery game for us,” said Erasmus.
“At the beginning [of the match], we were a bit worried about this game.”
He admitted the red card, issued to Italian prop Andrea Lovotti in the 43rd minute for a spear tackle on Duane Vermeulen, made life a lot easier for South Africa.
“And I thought that the red card obviously cost them, because there were stages when they almost came back into the game.
“When they got that red card, it was quite easy for us, after that.”
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Despite the margin of the win, Erasmus said his team has some work to do before the play-offs.
“The boys are obviously in play-off mode,” the Bok coach said, adding: “Our team understands that we are under pressure [after the opening round loss to New Zealand]. We are going to live by that now for the next couple of weeks.”
He bemoaned his team’s lack of discipline before the break.
“I thought our discipline was terrible the first half. We conceded six penalties, while we defended.”
While he described it as “overall, not a bad performance”, the Bok coach said they have to improve considerably if they want to progress in the tournament.
“Obviously we are not [at a] World Cup-winning standard yet,” Erasmus said.
“We definitely need to get better on the attacking side. But I’m pretty happy how we handled that game.
“We play to our strengths. We know that the way we played [in this match] was enough to get through to the quarterfinals.
“Our game against Italy was always going to determine who would progress from the pool.”
The Springboks next take on Canada.
“One box ticked,” he said, adding: “We have the Canada game [SA’s final pool match] and then another game [the quarterfinal] in the same frame of intensity as this game.”
Two of the seven tries were scored by dynamic wing Cheslin Kolbe, who has proved a thorn in the side of any opposition, whether in a Springbok jersey or playing for Toulouse in the French Top 14.
“He played a wonderful game, both in attack and defence,” Erasmus said, naming him alongside All Blacks Sevu Reece and Damian McKenzie as having “that X-factor, they can make something out of nothing”.
“It’s great to have him there.”
Kolbe was taken off late on, however, after turning his ankle in a tackle but the coach gave him a clean bill of health.
“He rolled his ankle a little bit,” Erasmus said. “His ankle is fine.
“We didn’t have a reserve, but we thought it was good to get him off the park and play the last minute or two with 14 men.”