Springbok coach Peter de Villiers admitted that it was a mistake to send on a rash of second-half replacements, which almost cost his team victory in their nail-biting 26-21 triumph over the British and Irish Lions in Durban on Saturday.
Jan de Koning, Rugby365.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of his team’s narrow win, which gave them a vital 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, De Villiers said he thought the team was “looking flat” and needed an injection of pace and energy.
De Villiers cleared his bench at a crucial stage in the second half – with his team leading 26-7 and looking in command.
But on came Danie Rossouw for star poacher Heinrich Brüssow, Deon Carstens for captain John Smit, Gurthrö Steenkamp for man of the match Tendai Mtawarira, Hennie Bekker for the physical Bakkies Botha, an out of shape Enrico Januarie for star scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, Morné Steyn for Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf and Jaque Fourie for Jean de Villiers.
The Lions scored two converted tries in the 69th and 75th minutes – leaving the Boks to hang on for a narrow five-point victory and the Lions having outscored them by three tries to two.
“I wanted to bring on some fresh legs,” De Villiers said at a media briefing, adding that some of the guys hadn’t played for weeks.
“We were in control [on the scoreboard], but they were looking flat,” he said of his team, adding: “I made a mistake. I though we would inject enthusiasm and speed, but maybe I made too many [replacements] too soon.”
Captain John Smit came to the defence of his coach, saying that not all the blame for letting the Lions back into the game should be laid at the door of the replacements.
“It was a lapse of concentration, we simply did not maintain it [concentration] for the full 80,” Smit said, adding: “We took the foot off the gas in last 20 and didn’t clear our lines properly.”
De Villiers also praised the Lions for the manner in which they came back in the final quarter.
“We shouldn’t take away the brilliance of the Lions team,” he said, adding that the tourists showed they have the ability and willingness to fight back from even the most precarious situation.
“You must understand, this is a brilliant Lions side and they will always come back.”
Smit admitted that his team is now in a strong position, one up in the series and two matches to go – meaning they only have to win one of the two remaining matches on the Highveld to clinch the series.
“The first Test was always going to be very important, but now both teams will be fighting that much harder – one to finish [win the series] and one to survive [the Lions] and the pressure will be twice as much [in Pretoria next week],” the Bok captain said.
He felt that at times, when they executed well, the Boks looked good.
“But we didn’t get 80 minutes of that [good execution] and I felt we were a bit rusty. But this 80 minutes will certainly have helped us and we can be better next week,” he added.Tweet