South Africa coach Allister Coetzee hailed skipper Adriaan Strauss and match-winner Morne Steyn after his team ground out an 18-10 Rugby Championship victory over Australia in Pretoria on Saturday.
Hooker Strauss gave his best performance for the Springboks this season as they snapped a three-Test losing streak that triggered fierce public and media criticism.
Recalled fly-half Steyn scored all the South African points from four penalties and two drop goals as the hosts survived a second-half battering before stretching a 12-10 half-time advantage.
“The value of Adriaan as a leader and as a hooker was there for all to see this evening,” Coetzee said after his record improved to four victories in eight Tests since succeeding Heyneke Meyer last April.
He said the official man of the match showed “great character” in front of a near-capacity crowd in the 51,000-seat Loftus Versfeld stadium, where Strauss plays for Northern Bulls.
“Morne justified his inclusion,” said Coetzee, who axed younger fly-half Elton Jantjies after a series of below-par performances in the southern hemisphere championship.
“Steyn showed this evening that he is still a Test match player. He remains proud to play for the Springboks.”
Coetzee said the victory over the Wallabies was timely after away losses to Argentina, Australia and world champions New Zealand.
“It was an important win, not only for our confidence, but also our self belief,” he told a post-match media conference.
“I am a very happy man and will never underestimate any Test win. For a team that had their backs to the wall, a win like this means a lot and is a definite confidence booster.”
Coetzee said the Springbok defence was a source of pride after the qualifications of the assistant coach responsible for it, Chean Roux, had been questioned by the media.
“Our defence was outstanding,” the coach said. “I must give credit to Chean as he worked very hard this week to get everyone on the same page.”
Although South Africa failed to score a try for the first time in eight matches this year, Coetzee was not downbeat.
“We were good with ball in hand, we moved well, but our continuity was not what it should have been,” he said.
Leading 10-3 after prop Scott Sio scored his first Test try, Australia conceded a string of late first-half penalties when full-back Israel Folau was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Steyn kicked three penalties for a 12-10 half-time lead, and another penalty and a drop goal in the closing six minutes to confirm Loftus Versfeld as a hoodoo ground for the Wallabies.
Australia have played South Africa there seven times and lost all seven, including a 61-22 thrashing 19 years ago.
New Zealand, who play Argentina in Buenos Aires late Saturday, have clinched first place with 20 points. South Africa have 10, Australia nine and Argentina five.
© 2016 AFP
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