Johannesburg - While some previous Springbok coaches may have wanted players to “play what they see in front of them”, current Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes that his squad need to “think like coaches” rather than have a gameplan fed to them.
Erasmus was talking as preparations for the second Test in Bloemfontein kicked in in earnest, and how the players adapted on the field after the shock of conceding three tries in the opening 18 minutes, according to the supersport.com website.
It seems that it was the players who spotted the space out wide during those torrid opening minutes and decided to change their approach.
With some composure seldom seen at Test level after a shocking start like that, the Boks stormed back to win the game by playing an expansive brand of rugby that not only shocked the English, but also won many hearts and minds of supporters outside.
Erasmus admitted it was the players who found the answer to their early woes, and said he expected both teams to change the tactics on Saturday.
“It is interesting to answer but if you check that Wales team that beat Argentina comfortably there were like 15 or 16 players that played against us two weeks ago in Washington,” Erasmus said.
“It really depends what the opposition gives you on the day. What England gave us on Saturday was space out wide, which the players saw. It wasn’t the all-out plan that we went out to that game and said that was where we wanted to exploit them.
“I think the players saw the opportunities when we were under pressure on defence and they saw the opportunities on attack.
“I’m sure Eddie will change a few things. It is difficult to plan against him because he changes a lot. But he was exposed and we were exposed in some places so I guess this weekend will be again who can fix it the quickest”
Erasmus praised his two young wings Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi for making some “big calls on defence”.
“I think it is good that the guys could adapt. Normally if things go like that you tend to go into your shell and don’t want to make a mistake. I think the bigger the decisions you make the better it is for yourself because at least afterwards you can go and say ‘did it work or didn’t it work’ instead of wondering what is going on.
“That is the last thing you want if you are an inexperienced player so all credit to S’bu and Aphiwe and all the guys. They started making big calls on defence and that is what we want. Now we can review it and get better.”
Erasmus said the ideal thing was not just to build a strong leadership group, but to empower players to think like coaches.
“In the last 30 minutes the game could have slipped away from us when they got the penalty but RG stole the lineout ball,” he added.
“The big challenge is not to get this leadership group, but to get the whole squad to think like coaches. What Siya is installing and what Duane is installing and what a guy like Schalk Brits will bring to the party now.
“There are so many experienced players in the team right now that can help you. Handre Pollard, although he only has 27, 28 caps he is a cool head, he is a former SA under-20 captain.
“There is a lot of leadership in the team and we just need to empower them to make those decisions. But I thought Siya did well. We all were nervous then and the players stayed calm.”
The Boks know they will face a more desperate England on Saturday, who have lost their last five games in a row.
But if they react the same way they did on Saturday it will not only see them up to the challenge, but it will take Springbok rugby another step forward.
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