How Springbok players saved the series
South African coach Jacques Nienaber revealed that the dramatic turnaround from the first Test to the second in the series against the British and Irish Lions was player-driven.
The B&I Lions won the first Test 22-17 and could have sealed the series with a win in the second Test this past weekend.
However, despite trailing 6-9 at halftime, the Springboks scored 21 unanswered second-half points and beat the tourists 27-9 to level the series ahead of next weekend’s final Test.
The dominance of the Boks after half-time – pretty much as they did in the 2019 World Cup Final against England in 2019 – resulted in tries by wing Makazole Mapimpi and centre Lukhanyo Am.
The Boks’ second-half dominance in the second Test was far more emphatic than the B&I Lions did in the first Test -when they came from 3-12 down to win 22-17 in the series opener.
It means Saturday’s decider will be huge.
Nienaber said much of the solutions in the build-up to the second Test were player-driven, so much so that he even considered giving his win bonus to them.
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He added the team knew they had to ignore all the sideshows – which included Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus’ hour-long video rant – and concentrate just on the rugby.
“Our main focus was on the on-field stuff,” the Bok coach said.
Bok skipper Siyamthanda Kolisi said “nothing would change” ahead of the decisive third Test this coming Saturday.
“In the set pieces we have to win more of our [own] balls, get more dominance in the scrums and work harder off the ball,” he said.
The coach said he is “fortunate” to work with such a great leadership group – under the guidance of Kolisi.
He pointed to the fact that a number of the members of the current squad have already played 50 Tests – a key asset in international rugby.
“It is unbelievable to have players with that amount of experience,” Nienaber said.
He said the players came up with that change in tactics, after the Boks lost the kicking game in the first half.
“The plans the players came up with during this [past] week, to rectify it, was unbelievable,” the coach said, adding: “The creativity they had, in handling that, I take my hat off to them.
“At one stage, I was sitting there in the meeting, thinking, if we win, I should give my win bonuses to them.
“That is how fortunate we are, to have a group of players like this.
“They are creative. I feel more like a facilitator than a coach, because they come up withy such great ideas.
“It is nice to work with a group like that.”
Kolisi described the second-Test win as “special. ”
“It has been a tough week,” he said, adding: “It was the toughest week I have ever had to face.
“I am grateful to the management and coaches we have for making us focus on the mistakes we made [last weekend].
“We fight together as a team and it came through for us.
“We did not worry about mistakes and the injuries, we just gave 100 percent.
“You have got to trust in the system, trust in the guys around you.
“We have been in a bubble but we are thinking of the (South African) people. There is one more week and we will give it everything.”