Springboks

Boks gather power

2017-06-04 06:08
TOUGH TIME: Springbok coach Allister Coetzee. (Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix)

Johannesburg - As international rugby seasons go, few will start as hazardously as the threat posed by the French tour for Springbok coach ­Allister Coetzee. While this is his ­second year in charge, it still strangely feels like his first.

Thanks to the limited time he will have had with the team by Saturday’s first Test, 2016’s legacy of ­results (four wins in 12 games) that a coach can only hope to forget, plus a new captain in Warren Whiteley, Coetzee could be forgiven for feeling like he is beginning again.

But the one thing that will remind him that this is not his first dig is the pressure he will be under for the ­duration of the three-Test series – which starts at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, resumes in Durban a week later and concludes in Johannesburg.

Lacking last year

The rumour mill has insisted since the beginning of the year that, if Coetzee fails to beat the French comprehensively in this series, he will be shown the door by South African Rugby. Offsetting that is his acquisition of two assistant coaches: Franco Smith and Brendan Venter.

The influence of the latter is already apparent in the selection of overseas-based veterans Frans Steyn and loose-forward Duane Vermeulen.

The former is there to shore up the team defensively in that first channel and to solve the exit strategy issues the Boks had with his howitzer boot. The latter is set to provide the go-forward drive so lacking last year, despite upsetting the coaching staff through critical comments while sidelined in France.

Although Whiteley’s appointment as the 58th Bok captain raises questions about whether he’s automatically in the starting XV and if he belongs at Test level, it was bold not to go with popular sentiment and rather side with the ­understated Lions captain’s deeds, ­instead of his lack of dramatic words.

In a strange way, the fact that some people had issues with a few of the ­selections – Damian de Allende instead of Ruan Combrinck, plus the omission of Lionel Mapoe from the original squad – is promising simply because one can’t trust a coach who selects a team everyone agrees with.

That said, those plans have already been disrupted, with Vermeulen, who seems to have been earmarked for the blindside flank role, only arriving in the country this week after playing in the French Top 14 final on Saturday.

Good opportunity

Steyn’s arrival during the week has offset that, but the impressive Lukhanyo Am’s injury (and his replacement by ­Mapoe – a player one gets the ­impression Coetzee doesn’t rate) means that whatever plans they had for him will have to wait.

As unfair as expectations of a comprehensive series win over the French are, Coetzee and co can learn from the visitors’ approach to the tour.

Guy Novès’ France – who have played some directionless rugby recently but have shown improvement by finishing third in the Six ­Nations behind England and Ireland – have set themselves a ­simple enough target, according to ­forwards coach Yannick Bru.

“After the disappointments of the past two seasons, we decided to play positive rugby, keep the ball and create space,” he said. “I think we’re on the way. We have to give fans the feeling that we deserve to be supported. I think that’s the main thing we’ve achieved so far.

“But we’re still behind the best teams in the world rankings. We know we need to improve still, so we are working on the ratio between opportunities we create and opportunities we take. Playing against South Africa is a good ­opportunity to see if we’ve improved”.

When South African rugby fans clamoured for an approach imbued with ­similarly positive intent, Coetzee committed to what he called “winning rugby”, an example of which was a particularly dreary win over Australia in the Rugby Championship at Loftus last year.

Asked if this was a good time to play the Boks, Bru wasn’t biting: “There’s never a good time to play the Springboks. They’ve had a difficult last season, but we expect a very tough series.

“We have some ambition, but we have humility because we know how far we are from being among the top countries in the world”.

Read more on:    springboks  |  allister coetzee  |  johannesburg  |  rugby
NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Saturday, 24 June 2017
South Africa v France, Emirates Airlines Park 17:05
Saturday, 19 August 2017
South Africa v Argentina, Port Elizabeth 17:00
Saturday, 26 August 2017
Argentina v South Africa, Salta 12:00
Saturday, 09 September 2017
Australia v South Africa, Perth 12:00
Saturday, 16 September 2017
New Zealand v South Africa, Albany 09:35
Saturday, 30 September 2017
South Africa v Australia, Bloemfontein 17:00
Vote

How do you see the Springboks v France three-Test series panning out?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The pride of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have combined once again to form the British & Irish Lions. Their mission? Victory over the world champion All Blacks in their own back yard. How will their three-test series pan out? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.