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Bok decisions pay dividends

Being brave reaps rewards for Rassie as he wraps up England test series

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira
Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus vowed to make brave decisions and Saturday’s 23-12 series-clinching win over England will serve to embolden the coach on his path to building a World Cup squad.

The second test win reduced Saturday’s third and final test in Cape Town to the realm of dead rubber.

With the series wrapped up, Erasmus will have the licence to extend playing opportunities to men who have thus far played a peripheral role in the series.

“It is nice to have the series wrapped up, we will try to make it 3-0 on Saturday,” he said.

“We will try a few new things, put different guys under different pressure. “We are breathing easier.”

Erasmus, who went on to talk up the virtues of common sense, warned his selection policy would remain rooted in rationale.

“We don’t want to make stupid decisions, for the sake of being funny or weird,” he said.

“We want to make decisions so we can put a 31-man World Cup squad together.

“If you want to build a squad you have to try a few things. We have to learn that in the next couple of months.

“We have the opportunity to try a few new things which don’t make that test less important, but we must build depth and experience.”

It is early days in the Erasmus era but there seems to be a sense of direction in the Bok ranks.

Previous Bok coaches have struggled to build capacity, while keeping their heads above water and most reverted to the tried and tested in game plan and selection.

Already, England coach Eddie Jones has seen a transformation in the Green and Gold.

“Selection is one thing. I think they have a very clear way of how they want to play and they are executing it well,” he said.

“Everyone was giving Allister Coetzee stick for picking young players, but some of those young players are now coming through.

“I think they are playing traditional Bok rugby.”

Erasmus lauded the character shown by his team thus far in the test series.

In both tests they had to overcome slow starts and wear down England, leaving the tourists to chase the game in the final quarter.

“There are a lot of things that went wrong but the guys showed character,” Erasmus said.

“It showed we can come back from record margins down. What the guys experienced last week and this week will only help them in the future.”

It helped that experienced players in the team’s spine who reside abroad like Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux proved influential.

“He will always bring experience,” Erasmus said of Vermeulen.

“Willie too. Duane has played some very accurate rugby. He looks sharp and he’s running great lines. He’s over the ball.

“He works with Siya [Kolisi] on the game plan and the decision making.

“You get guys like this who contribute a lot off the field and then you get some who also contribute phenomenally on the field.”

He also praised his team’s discipline which has seen them concede just 12 penalties thus far.

“We need to treat players like adults. If you treat them like adults off the field they will make adult decisions on it,” Erasmus said.

“Our motto is to use common sense. That flows into the game. It is great when the guys bring the discipline off the field onto the field.”

Meanwhile, Springboks loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira, popularly known as ‘Beast’, told how the president rang him to celebrate his 100th cap.

Mtawarira said that he initially challenged the telephone well-wisher -- who turned out to be President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The first thing I said was” ‘Who’s speaking?’ ‘The president.’ ‘Oh!’,” he said to laughter.

“When I realised who it was I got very formal, very quickly. He thanked me for what I had done and for inspiring South Africans -- I was just really surprised that he knew who I was.”

Scorers:

South Africa 23 - Try: Duane Vermeuelen; Penalty try; Conversion: Handre Pollard; Penalties: Handre Pollard 3.

England 12 - Tries: Mike Brown and Jonny May; Conversion: Owen Farrell.

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