South Africa A-side coach, Johan Ackermann, praised the effort of his squad after they defeated the French Barbarians 48-28 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Friday.
The win secured a 2-0 sweep over the French tourists after the SA A-side won last Friday’s match in Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium. Ackermann felt the team improved massively from last week’s performance, despite having lock Ruan Botha red-carded late in the first half.
“The red card was a setback, but the way the guys responded made me very proud,” said Ackermann.
“We had to adjust and Jason Jenkins did excellently in calling the line-outs. Overall, it was a much better performance than last week and for that, credit must go to the whole group. We had much better fluency in attack. We did lose some balls in contact, but that happens.”
Ackermann highlighted some of the excellent tries his team scored and lauded the good captaincy from Francois Venter.
“We scored a couple of really brilliant tries, but it was hard work breaking down the French,” said the coach.
“Francois has proven himself as a leader and captain and that showed again tonight. He kept the scoreboard ticking with kicking penalties.”
Ackermann also endorsed the A-team concept. He coached the side in 2016 as well, against the English Saxons. He added that it’s not ideal to only be together for a short time with a squad, but said that the players will be better for the experience of facing tough international opposition.
“It was very pleasing to see how the team has grown in two weeks and how they progressed,” said Ackermann.
“I’ve always know we have the talent and depth here in South Africa. Some of the players showed tonight that they would not let Springboks down and are all capable to go to the next step.
“Playing with confidence is also very important, and tonight we saw that as our confidence improved, so did our performance. The players backed their skills and that was great.
“Time was limited to get the players ready and although a fortnight is a short time to prepare a team, because you have so many boxes to tick, our planning was good and that helped. The upside is the honour of working with players with qualities like these – it is highly rewarding.”
Ackermann applauded the efforts of the French Barbarians and said they proved a real test for his squad.
“The French did not come here to lose – they played very hard and tested our players,” he said.
“Our guys will be better because of that. The quality of the opposition is important to build depth.”
Venter, who was also involved with the SA A team in 2016, said it was a massive honour to play for a representative team.
“It makes South African rugby stronger as it provides an opportunity for the players on the fringes to be involved – I think it’s great for everyone,” said Venter.
“A number of guys has showed their intentions to play at higher honours and as players, we can feel that things are changing for the better in South African rugby.
“The vibe is good all over, the belief is coming back and we also saw that in the Boks. The coach is great working with players and we were all on the same page. That last huddle showed that we really became a team in a very short time, almost sad it is over.”
The SA A team’s tries were scored by Warrick Gelant (2), Chris Cloete (2), Ox Nche and Lionel Mapoe. Fred Zeilinga added five conversions and two penalty goals, while Jano Vermaak converted the final try in the dying moments of the match.