Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s challenge after Saturday’s thrilling Test at Newlands‚ if he is going to see out his contract‚ is to somehow find a way for his team to repeat the intensity they showed against the All Blacks every time they play.
The All Blacks won a classic at Newlands, but the Boks returned to basics using their sheer physical power to create problems for the visitors.
Coetzee praised the effort and commiserated with his shattered players because there was much to admire about the performance, but now they have to repeat it every time they play.
For all the talk about ball-in-hand it was the absolute physicality of the Boks, with hooker Malcolm Marx‚ prop Steven Kitshoff‚ captain Eben Etzebeth and flank Pieter-Steph du Toit in the vanguard, that put the home team on the front foot.
There was little finesse about the way the Boks went about their business, but they did respect possession better than they have in previous meetings.
During a breathless nine-minute spell after the half-time siren‚ the Boks kept bashing away at the All Blacks instead of ending the half. It summed up their bloody-mindedness.
"There are a lot of things that makes me so positive about this team and we really feel that we are heading in the right direction‚" Coetzee said.
"Our big boys were really big tonight and I think to an extent they actually got on top of New Zealand’s big boys."
All Black coach Steve Hansen was one of only a few people not surprised by the Springboks’s performance on the day. After winning 57-0 in Albany three weeks earlier‚ Hansen repeatedly warned of a Springbok backlash — and his side got it.
New Zealand were forced to make 171 tackles and often the Boks broke the first tackle through sheer ferocity.
"We tried to tell anyone who would listen that even though that scoreline looked ridiculous in Albany‚ it was just one of those games where we took every opportunity‚ but this time around we didn’t‚" Hansen said.
"The Boks grew in belief‚ they carried well off the set piece and put us under pressure there. When they get a roll on like that‚ they’re a good team. South Africans will be very proud of that performance.
"The Boks never disappoint us‚ they always turn up and are a very good rugby side. They showed real courage and character‚ and forced us to make so many tackles," Hansen said.
The Boks will leave in three weeks for the end-of-year tour to take on Ireland‚ France‚ Italy and Wales.