Cardiff - To many it would be a case of too little far too late, but it appears Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has finally run out of patience with some of the players and combinations he has stuck with through a poor run in 2016.
The Boks face Wales in their last match of the international season here at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday and Coetzee has hinted that he will make several changes to the team that lost 20-18 to Italy in Florence last weekend.
“The philosophy behind my selection for the Italy game was that I wanted to get some continuity going from the England match and then hopefully that would help us really be ready for the Wales game,” said Coetzee.
“But we did not get the result we wanted so I have to rethink that. I have to give opportunities now to other players. There are other young players who have worked really hard in training on this tour but haven’t played as yet. They deserve a chance and I am going to try and get them that opportunity against Wales.
“I want to use that match to look at the future so we know where we are next year. We want to finish on a high. It has been a disappointing year for us and the defeat against Italy was a real low, but all we can do now is try and resurrect some pride by playing really well against Wales so at least we can end the year on a positive note.”
Of course a win over Wales will still leave the Boks well short of finishing with a 50% pass mark from the first year with Coetzee as the coach. As it stands now, the Boks have won four out of 11 games, and a win on Saturday would make it five out of 12 – well below breaking even, and also a long way off the average annual win percentage for Bok coaches.
Coetzee’s predecessor Heyneke Meyer had to wait until the final match of his first year, the clash with England at Twickenham, to come out with a positive win percentage in 2012. However the difference between Meyer and Coetzee was that Meyer included two drawn games in his record before that end of year tour.
The decision to give youngsters a chance against Wales may be a sign that Coetzee has accepted that sticking to the core team he has stuck with for most of the year has kept him hand-braked in the same place through 2016. There has been a lot of talk about growing the Bok game and growing the depth available to the coach without it happening, and Monday’s press conference in Cardiff was the umpteenth time he spoke about the need to improve.
“We’ve just got to come up with better performances and we simply have to make sure we improve this weekend,” he said.
Wales have struggled so far in the autumn season, losing heavily to Australia in their first match and struggling to beat Japan by three points a few days ago. However, after the embarrassment of the defeat to Italy, Coetzee isn’t reading too much into the Welsh performances. Italy had been woeful in the games before they beat the Boks last weekend.
“We note that Wales are being bashed in the Welsh press at the moment, but they are an experienced team if you look at the players who are playing for them at the moment,” said Coetzee.
“Most of them were part of the World Cup last year, when they made it out of a very tough group and into the play-offs, beating England at Twickenham along the way. They have quality players and the fact that they have not been happy with their form of late will be more reason why they will really come out and play on Saturday.”
Read the story on SuperSport.com