Rugby Championship

'Special' Boks? It's far too early to tell

2017-08-21 10:08
Allister Coetzee (Gallo)

Cape Town - Saturday's resounding 37-15 win over Argentina in Port Elizabeth went down a treat, and it gave Springbok coach Allister Coetzee a solid start to his Rugby Championship campaign. 

It means the Boks are four from four in 2017, resulting in a renewed belief that Springbok rugby is on the right track once more. 

It took the hosts a while to get going on Saturday, and they certainly didn't have it all their own way, but by the end of the match the Boks were bringing the Nelson Mandela Bay crowd to its feet. Had the game lasted another 10 minutes, they could easily have crossed the whitewash another couple of times. 

The Boks bossed the scrums, the breakdown, the physical exchanges and they showed moments of real enterprise on attack, leaving the Pumas a punch away from being knocked out cold when the final whistle came. 

Despite not securing a bonus point, this was about as good a performance as Coetzee could have hoped for. It was, at the very least, a significant improvement on the laboured 30-23 win the Boks dished up in this fixture in Nelspruit last year. 

The SuperSport analysts finally had a chance to heap praise on the Boks, and at one of the pitch-side, post-match analysis sessions, it was uttered that "something special was brewing in the Springbok group of 2017". 

Hopefully there is ... but it is certainly far too early to tell. 

Saturday's victory means that Coetzee has taken his win percentage as Bok coach back up to just 50%

His perfect record in 2017, combined with his four from 12 in 2016, leaves him with eight from 16 since taking the reins of the national team. 

Another scary statistic as the Boks prepare for three matches on the road in the Championship is that, under Coetzee, they have never won a Test away from home. 

All eight of his wins have come at home while, away, Coetzee has lost Tests to Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, England, Italy and Wales. 

In Salta last year, the Boks were terrible as they fell to a 26-24 loss that was the start of the nightmare for South African rugby. 

Their only other win that year was the Morne Steyn kickathon in Pretoria against the Wallabies. 

While the improvement in this Springbok side is there for all to see, it is important not to get too carried away. 

South African rugby is taking the right steps in its attempt to get back to full health, but to presume that it is back to its best already would be naive. 

There is still a long way to go, and it starts with this coming weekend against the Pumas in Salta, again. 

The Boks and Coetzee have to start winning away from home. 

The All Blacks' display in the first 50 minutes against Australia in Sydney on Saturday sent a timely reminder of how far ahead of the pack they are. 

Right now, there is nobody in the southern hemisphere who can challenge them. 

Beating New Zealand in Albany next month would be something special for the Boks, but at this stage it seems highly unlikely and that is okay. 

Nobody, realistically, is expecting the Springboks to challenge the Kiwis this year. 

But Argentina in Salta and Australia in Perth are two matches that can go a long way towards suggesting that this Springbok team is going somewhere. 

Wins in those fixtures might confirm that there is, in fact, something 'special' happening in South African rugby once more. 

But if Coetzee delivers the away form he did last year, then all-of-a-sudden he'll be back back below 50% and the Boks will be languishing near the foot of the Rugby Championship table. 

After the horrors we saw last year, it's going to take more than victories at home over France and Argentina to get us all giddy over the Boks. 

It's been a near-perfect start to the year, but nothing has been achieved yet. 

Super Rugby this season revealed just how weak Australian rugby is at the moment, while the Argentinean side is made up of a lot of the Jaguares who also battled their way through that competition. 

The Boks must go four from four against those two countries this year. If they can't do that, then calling them 'special' seems a bit of a reach. 

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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