Despite glimpses of the poor performance that marked the Springboks’ defeat to Ireland in June‚ coach Allister Coetzee could breathe a huge sigh of relief after his side squeezed through for victory against Argentina in Nelspruit on Saturday.
It was not the ideal start for Coetzee when the Boks went down 20-26 to the Irish in the first of three tests in the mid-year series in Cape Town in June.
But Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Los Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium was different after the Boks forged a late comeback in the second half to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment the side suffered in former coach Heyneke Meyer’s last test at home, when they were beaten by Argentina in Durban last year.
“It was a bit of deja vu from the first test‚” Coetzee admitted after the game.
“Fortunately in this one we pulled through – the first one against Ireland we lost. We are obviously pleased with the result‚ but we are not pleased with the 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after half time.
“I thought we started well but then let it slip again. There were opportunities that we did not take.”
With some rain in Nelspruit before the start of the game‚ the wet turf was always going to make things tricky for both sides.
It was not the most clinical of wins for the Boks in a match that‚ for the most part‚ lacked spark.
The Boks were staring down the barrel of defeat until a game-changing Warren Whiteley try two minutes before the final whistle managed to claim a 30-23 win.
It was not so much a repeat of the handling errors that proved costly to the side in the first match of the Rugby Championship‚ but rather shocking decision-making that was their achilles heel on Saturday.
“When you don’t take points that are on offer‚ suddenly errors start to creep into our game and we find it difficult to apply pressure again,” Coetzee said.
“I would say for 45 minutes I was not happy‚ but I was very happy with the last 15 minutes.
“The decision when to run and when to kick is not there yet. If we get that right and have the territorial control‚ then it would be a different ball game . . .
“A win is important in test rugby‚ it does not matter how it comes.”
The Boks travel to Argentina today to prepare for their second match of the competition against Los Pumas.