Springbok captain John Smit, describing his team’s 28-25 win over the British and Irish Lions in Pretoria at the weekend as colossal and a proper Test, spoke of how his team escaped to “find victory in a very dark room”.
The three-point win, courtesy of an injury-time penalty by replacement flyhalf Morné Steyn gave the Boks an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
The Bok captain was full of praise for the character his side showed in coming back from being 0-10 down (inside the first 10 minutes) and later 8-19 (going into the final quarter).
But he felt the experience his team had gained in being together as a core group over the last six years, including winning a World Cup and a Tri-Nations, helped them in overcoming he deficit.
“We couldn’t have had a worse start to a Test match,” Smit said of the first 10 minutes – which not only saw his team going behind on the scoreboard, but also play with 14 men after the sin-binning of flank Schalk Burger.
“Some harsh words [were spoken] at half-time, but great words at full-time and we are very happy now,” the Bok skipper said.
“This is a special group to be part of – the guys really enjoy each other’s company and they enjoy playing for their country.
“It [the series victory] is very special and hopefully will continue to be special,” he said of his team’s winning streak – six matches going back to the Tri-Nations win over Australia in August last year.
Speaking about the second Test at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, Smit said it was “colossal”.
“Certainly the ante was up after last week [the first Test], which didn’t live up to all the hype.
“This was a proper Test match … every inch for 80 minutes.”
He also had praise for the Lions, whom he said had taken a lot of heart out of the last 20 minutes from the first Test – when the tourists came back from 7-26 down to close the gap to just five points (21-26) in the end.
“They certainly took the game to us,” Smit said, adding: “They will be gutted to lose it like that, with a late kick – like we did 12 years ago.”
Smit admitted that his team faced an uphill task from the first minute, because they didn’t have the best start.
“Getting a penalty, going a man down and getting the penalty reversed was not a good start.
“However, it really shows the character [of the team],” he said, adding that the number of years together and the number of Test matches helped them in coming back.
“We’ve probably been in tougher places and come out of those and that is what helped us in the situation.
“We’ve spoken about some of those dark places before and how we worked our way out of them.
“This team has an amazing ability to find victory in a very dark room,” the Bok captain said.
Asked what his team’s expectations are for the third and final Test in Johannesburg next week, Smit said they are determined to continue raising the bar.
“The one word we use most often in our build-up is ‘standards’ and I don’t think we’ve quite hit the button yet,” the Bok skipper said, adding: “It is still early season for and we still have a lot of work to do to really get the full throttle going.
“We still have a lot of internationals coming [the Tri-Nations tournament and year-end tour] and it is about keeping the momentum and keeping our standards and make sure we get to the quality of rugby we want to play.”
By Jan de Koning, on the Bok beatTweet