Springbok fans had a glimpse of what can be expected when things go well on the pitch in Saturday’s come-from-behind 32-26 win over Ireland at Ellis Park.
Trailing 19-3 at half time, coach Allister Coetzee’s men looked down and out once again.
But whatever was said at half time, coupled with timely substitutions, led to the Springboks scoring four second-half tries that ultimately allowed them to level the series 1-1 heading into the deciding match in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
It was in Johannesburg, though, where the local Lions proved that they have what it takes to put the bite back into the Boks.
Replacing Lwazi Mvovo, winger Ruan Combrinck came off the bench to put in a Man of the Match display, while his franchise leader Warren Whiteley clearly provided some inspiration when he replaced Duane Vermeulen at No.8.
But while the Springboks will have their tails up heading into the final encounter, Coetzee will know they have a lot to work on ahead of the third Test.
In the first half, especially, the Boks were again guilty of making too many unforced errors.
Ireland did their homework and whenever South Africa threatened their line in their 22, Joe Schmidt’s men simply tackled the ball and not the man.
It worked a treat as they stopped countless attacks from the opposition to win turnover ball.
Added to this, flyhalf Elton Jantjies – while his distribution was spot on – missed two penalty shots at goal in quick succession that kept Ireland in the lead.
It was the Boks that drew first blood in the encounter, though, when they were awarded a rather questionable scrum penalty in the third minute, which Jantjies converted (3-0).
Bok flanker Francois Louw then conceded a breakdown penalty in the 10th minute, with Ireland flyhalf Paddy Jackson making no mistake with the three-pointer attempt.
With the Irish enjoying the bulk of the possession in the early stages of the match, Jackson put them in the lead with another penalty four minutes later (6-3).
The Boks then won a kickable penalty, but captain Adriaan Strauss decided to opt for touch instead.
And while this excited the Ellis Park faithful, it bombed when Damian de Allende had the ball ripped out of his claws from the resulting lineout. No points for all their efforts. Making too many handling errors, the Boks were also put to the sword at scrum time and it was from a scrum penalty in the 23rd minute that Jackson made it 9-3 for the visitors.
After another Jackson penalty and a Lwazi Mvovo fumble from a high ball, Ireland scored a try via Devin Toner to make it 19-3 at the break.
The Boks were booed off the field by their own fans and the pressure was on Coetzee and his coaching staff.
Exactly what was said at the break is still not clear, but it was a different Springbok team that came out in the second half. The introduction of Combrick, Whiteley, prop Julian Redelinghuys, Franco Mostert – all Lions – gave the Boks some bite again.
Added to this, it was clear De Allende was told to go in lower when making contact and it did the trick as the team staged one of the best comebacks in recent years.
Tries by Combrink, Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit and De Allende were enough to level the series and give Springbok fans something to smile about for the rest of the week.
At least they gave them a second half to remember and a first half to forget.