Springboks coach Allister Coetzee was pleased with the 37-14 win over France at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the first of three Tests in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, but warned that the team cannot rest on their laurels with encounters in Durban and Johannesburg remaining.
The Boks scored four tries to two and led 16-7 at the break. Jesse Kriel, Ross Cronje, and Jan Serfontein crossed the try-line for South Africa, while they were also awarded a penalty try. Elton Jantjies delivered a flawless kicking performance by slotting three penalty goals and three conversions.
“We certainly did take a step in the right direction today,” said Coetzee.
“This was the first of 13 Test matches for the season and at least we started with a positive performance and for that, I am pretty pleased.
“We have closed the chapter on 2016 and this year we need to keep improving as a team. I have selected the best available team out there for this series, so it is pleasing that we won. We have the belief and ability in the team, but [the victory] was a baby step.”
Coetzee said that the team laid a good foundation at their training camps, especially the last one in Plettenberg Bay.
“Nothing is perfect, neither was our game,” he said.
“We have a team environment that is growing and taking shape, you could see in the last five minutes how the guys defended. We know the French played without a number of their stars, yet they had us under pressure at times, but we never stopped working for each other.”
The Bok coach was impressed by the number of try-scoring opportunities created.
“What we learned from the Northern Hemisphere teams is that you cannot stop working hard,” said Coetzee.
“We created a number of opportunities and that is always pleasing. We may not have created enough width yet on the attack, but that will come. A lot of hard work at the camps is paying off. We have some time on our side.”
Coetzee also said the replacements created a big impact off the bench: “They came onto the field and did the job. They guys are pushing each other and my job selecting a team will not become easier.”
Springbok captain, Warren Whiteley, agreed with Coetzee that a good foundation was laid at the recent training camp in Plettenberg Bay.
“We did establish some really good foundations,” said the new Bok captain.
“Our cover defense was good, but we will have to keep our feet on the ground. We had some pressure before the Test, and we know the remaining two matches will not be easy. There will always be mistakes, but we worked hard for each other to rectify that.”
Whiteley made his captaincy debut, along with five players who got their first Test caps for South Africa, and he was pretty happy for Cronje, Courtnall Skosan, Raymond Rhule, Andries Coetzee and Dillyn Leyds.
“It is always nice to see how team mates develop over seasons and to see the joy on their faces when they make a Test debut is always a great feeling,” said Whiteley.
“I was really happy for them, especially Ross, who also scored a try on debut. You could see with all the tries scored how much it meant to the guys.”