Cape Town - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says he was forced to substitute star duo Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux during Saturday’s 32-30 defeat to the All Blacks in Pretoria.
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The Boks threw away a 30-13 lead after 59 minutes and many pundits felt a rash of substitutions had disrupted the team's rhythm.
Erasmus made all eight of his substitutions in the final quarter of the game but at least two of those were injury enforced, the coach stressed.
“Willie got a concussion and failed his HIA (head injury assessment). Faf was cramping. So that was two swaps at the same time, with two big decision-makers coming off," Erasmus said at the post-match press conference.
Erasmus’ first substitution came straight after the Boks had leapt to a 30-13 lead, with Vincent Koch replacing Frans Malherbe at tighthead prop.
"Frans Malherbe said he was tired and needed to come off earlier," Erasmus continued.
A minute after the All Blacks reduced the deficit to 30-18 in the 61st minute, RG Snyman replaced Eben Etzebeth at lock.
Over the next 11 minutes, the Boks made a further five substitutions (Damian Willemse for Le Roux - 65min; Sikhumbizo Notshe for Francois Louw - 69min; Embrose Papier for De Klerk (72nd min); Bongi Mbonambi for Malcolm Marx (72nd min) and Tendai Mtawarira for Steven Kitshoff (73rd min).
The All Blacks scored again in the 75th minute and by the time Elton Jantjies came on for Damian de Allende in the 77th minute, the Boks were struggling to hold on.
Eramus said the players would learn from the experience.
“New Zealand made better use of their bench. I also have to take responsibility because I was the one making the subs," the coach added.