Durban - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has lauded the impact captain Jean de Villiers had in steering the Boks to a win over England at Kings Park here on Saturday.
De Villiers marked his debut as captain with a crucial second-half try to help his team edge out England 22-17 in the first Test of their three-match series.
“I must say there were a few nerves in the beginning with a new captain and few new caps,” Meyer said after a winning start to his reign.
“But I’m very happy with the guys, we stuck to our guns and I thought Jean did brilliantly as captain.
“We did really well in the second half in what was an exceptionally tough Test match. I’m just happy that we saw it through.”
The Boks started out promisingly enough against an English team also with a new coach, as Stuart Lancaster was in charge for the first time after being appointed on a full-time basis.
It was the visitors who went in front via a sixth minute penalty from Owen Farrell after debutant lock Eben Etzebeth conceded a penalty at the ruck.
South Africa hit back when a Morné Steyn up-and-under was not cleanly gathered, allowing some pressure to form with England then caught off-side, and Bulls flyhalf was able to level the scores.
England took back the lead when Marcell Coetzee entered a ruck from the side and Steyn levelled after the tourists were again off-side, bringing the scores to 6-6 before half-time.
“The plan was always to open up the game in the second half,” Meyer explained. “Jean was brilliant (in the change room) at half-time. I just said to the forwards it’s not good enough and they need to get more stuck in.
"I wanted them to up the tempo and they responded very well.”
After the restart Patrick Lambie was introduced to replace Zane Kirchner and South Africa eventually broke through in the 48th minute.
The try came after Brian Habana and De Villiers combined on the left, with Jannie du Plessis bursting through the middle, before the ball eventually made its way to Steyn on the right as he dived in.
On the hour, De Villiers took a pass from JP Pietersen on the right and powered over for his 20th international try.
England crossed the whitewash, just after the final hooter, when Ben Foden collected a low pass on the right to squeak into the corner.
“I think we played fairly well and there were lots of positives to take," said Lancaster.
"We need to work on that third quarter where the Springboks controlled the game, but I was delighted with the fight we showed and there's a lot for us to take to Johannesburg."