Relief is arguably the best word to use when describing the Springboks’ 2-1 series win over Ireland.
Coach Allster Coetzee’s men were made to work hard for their 19-13 series- deciding victory in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
And while they lost their first match of the series under Coetzee at Newlands, what this Bok team showed is that they will fight for each other.
It was evident in Ellis Park in the second Test when they had to fight back to draw level the series and it was on show again in the match in PE when they had to keep the visitors from scoring a late win.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will probably be the poster boy for this new fight in the Bok team.
But while it’s good that they won the series, they will know that a much tougher assignment lies ahead in the Rugby Championship next month.
And the Springboks will also know that if they afford teams like the All Blacks and the Wallabies 70 percent of the territory and possession, they will be punished.
Ireland enjoyed those sort of advantages in the clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but the 182 tackles made by the hosts proved that they perhaps needed the win more in the end.
It was the much talked-about boot of Elton Jantjies that got the scoreboard rolling in the sixth minute when he successfully converted a penalty kick for the Boks.
The pivot had another shot at goal three minutes later, but failed to double their lead.
Then the moment that could’ve swung the match.
In Ireland the pubs would have been filled on Saturday with a pint of Guinness and refereeing double standards being the order of the day.
Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was sent to the sin bin following a high ball duel with Tiernan O’Halloran.
Now in comparison with the punishment Ireland flanker CJ Stander received for his challenge on Pat Lambie in the first Test, the Boks were perhaps lucky not to have lost Le Roux for the rest of the match.
At least, that’s how the Irish would’ve seen it.
Their players were die moer in after that and made their numerical advantage count when Luke Marshall ran straight through Jantjies as if he was Patrick Swayze in Ghost to score the first try of the match.
Paddy Jackson’s conversion made it 7-3.
Another Jackson penalty kick made it 10-3 for the visitors.
After Springbok prop Frans Malherbe earned a scrum penalty on Irish ball in the 30th minute, Jantjies made no mistake with the conversion (10-6).
The SA pivot was again in the thick of the action on the stroke of half time when, after a few phases, he kicked a delightful cross-kick for Man of the Match JP Pietersen to collect and score the Boks’ first try of the night.
The conversion gave the Boks a 13-10 lead at the break.
The second half was all about Ireland and their push to make history.
South Africa, though, stood strong to hold them out and the work of scrumhalf De Klerk, especially, deserves kudos.
It was the hosts, though, that outscored the visitors in the second period, with Jantjies and Ruan Combrinck adding three points each and Jackson kicking three for the visitors.