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Rassie Erasmus made call to bring on match winning Morne Steyn

By Kim Ekin
Morne Steyn (R) of the South Africa Springboks, who scored the late winning penalty, celebrates with his captain Siya Kolisi (David Rogers/Getty)

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Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber admits that Director of Rugby and occasional waterboy Rassie Erasmus made the call to bring on Morné Steyn as South Africa clinched the Lions series decider in Cape Town.

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Nienaber said he couldn’t watch as replacement standoff Steyn, the hero of the 2009 tour, wrote himself into the Springbok history books as he brought the curtain down on a pulsating 19-16 win in the decider at the Cape Town Stadium with two critical penalties.

“Our attitude was ‘let’s move on and find the solutions’,” said Nienaber. “There was so much experience in the squad, so we could manage to get the work done in the end. Our biggest challenge was getting time to prepare – we had some COVID issues and had to sit in hotel rooms for a week. We lost a week, but there was never going to be time for excuses. We made it work.”

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Nienaber said he couldn’t watch as Steyn kicked two late penalty goals.

“I had my head down between my legs when he kicked that last penalty goal, to be honest – I just could not watch,” he admitted.

“It was just happy for him that he succeeded – it is amazing that he did the same thing 12 years ago. I also want to congratulate the other two flyhalves in the group – Handré Pollard was great during the series and Elton Jantjies was just amazing this week for us. He contributed so much, even after he knew he was not going to be involved in the third test.”

Nienaber said he cannot claim the credit for the telling replacements for himself.

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“It was a call made by the coaching staff, we sit high up in the box and can see some things happening and Rassie (Erasmus) is down there next to the field, and he also observes,” explained Nienaber.

“Then we chat and make a call. We were fortunate that our subs were spot on today.”

“The ebb and flow of the game was like the Rugby World Cup final all over again.

“We knew we had to hang in there and make sure every player stayed in the game. This was a serious test of decision-making and character, and we came through.”

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Nienaber said that while they would enjoy the win, they stil have one eye on the Rugby Championship, which starts on Saturday when the Boks take on Argentina in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“We have done homework on Argentina already, because we knew it was going to be short turnaround. They are a very tough team, so tonight we enjoy, tomorrow we start again,” said Nienaber.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said words failed him. “I cannot explain in words – this group had so many challenges, with our first proper training just before the first Test.

“We decided though that there will be no excuses – people would not accept that anyway. We knew if we step onto the field, we needed to be ready to play,” added Kolisi.

Kolisi said the coaching staff pressed the right emotional buttons with the players.

“You cannot motivate people anymore with rugby stories, what is driving everyone is what matters,” he said.

“They know how to get us up emotionally. It was easy to play for South Africa, although they were not here. People came out today on our way to the stadium. They did not have to, but still they came to wish us luck. You cannot let them down.”

“Cheslin does not use many opportunities – today he just needed one. Willie (le Roux) was another – the backs came through when we needed them.”

“The character of the team – the guys who could not play kept on supporting – that attitude came through. We have a good work ethic. We find solutions and will be ready for next week.”

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Rassie Erasmus made call to bring on match winning Morne Steyn

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