Springboks could have beaten Australia far more comfortably if they had taken their chances, said Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby, following a 23-12 victory over the Wallabies at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
South Africa scored two tries by Aphiwe Dyantyi and Faf de Klerk in the opening 21 minutes of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and Handré Pollard added two conversions and three penalty goals, but Erasmus rued other missed openings.
“I think tonight we created more chances than we did against New Zealand and if we had converted some of those the game would have gone very differently,” said Erasmus.
“If we’d taken them we could have given them a hiding. In the past couple of months when we made changes, we lost matches so to make eight changes and beat Australia is something to celebrate and before we start to look at where we need to improve, we should probably enjoy the victory.”
Erasmus picked out the improving defence and the character of the team as two other features of the victory.
Australia scored all their points in a three-minute burst just before the half hour but were kept scoreless for the final 50 minutes, despite the Springboks having Dyantyi sent to the sin bin for a professional foul at the breakdown with 15 minutes remaining.
“In the second half we didn’t play well but we showed a lot of character once again,” said Erasmus.
“Overall I think the guys are getting the hang of the defensive system but it’s not something that you can get right through talking about it or on the training ground. It’s something you have to make mistakes trying, and learn from those mistakes.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi thanked the Port Elizabeth crowd of 41,332 as well as the people of the Eastern Cape for their support in a match that was dedicated to the memory of former president Nelson Mandela as part of the centenary celebrations of his birth.
“The people of the Eastern Cape love rugby and you just had to see our open training sessions to know what it meant to them,” said Kolisi. “They have a passion for the game here and we could feel that out on the field.”
The win maintained the Springboks’ second position on the Castle Lager Rugby Championship log, two points adrift of New Zealand who were playing Argentina in a later match in Buenos Aires.
The Wallabies now head for Argentina with their coach, Michael Cheika, also blaming missed chances for the defeat, but conceding there were areas in which they were outplayed.
“We didn’t manage the physical contest, but we still managed to create opportunities. But we just didn’t take them,” Cheika said.
South Africa complete their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against New Zealand in Pretoria on Saturday.