Johannesburg - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has dismissed the idea of a festival rugby approach against the Barbarians next weekend, underlining the need for his team to kick off their European tour on a high note.
According to the SuperSport website, Coetzee is adamant that his team need to win the opening game against the Barbarians, even if they have a squad that will be missing more than a dozen overseas based players, and is as young and inexperienced as it comes.
But rather than seeing it as an opportunity for the youth brigade to make their mark on international rugby and show their worth, Coetzee believes the more important aspect is to get a win and get some confidence going before the team tackles England at the same Twickenham venue a week later.
The game hasn’t been given test status so no caps will be involved, but Coetzee is desperate to get the team back to winning ways after their mammoth loss to the All Blacks in Durban.
And while there is a two-squad approach to the tour – those doing duty in the first game will need to prove they can play “test rugby” first before looking to entertain the local crowd.
It is understandable that Coetzee wants to have the team back in the winning column, especially given the negativity around the Springboks before and since the All Black loss, but it seems now what is normally a festival game is turning more into a test of the blueprint that Coetzee wants for Springbok rugby. Win first, and if there is the opportunity then entertain.
Of course, should the Boks lose the game and then fall against England it would put immense pressure on the Boks for the remainder of the tour, where Italy and Wales wait as well.
Coetzee knows public patience is thin, and while the young group will have the freedom to express themselves, it won’t be a run at all cost affair.
“The Baabaas, you must understand, because it is not a test, doesn’t mean we go out there to entertain,” Coetzee explained.
“That is the Baabaas philosophy. We play to get a basis to get a successful tour off the ground. You can’t just play one game and the next week against England you want to change all your plans and whole mindset.
“The Barbarians will test us but we will have to make sure we stick to our processes to win test match rugby.”
Coetzee explained the logistical nightmare his side faces ahead of the first game.
“Because of the regulation 9, it is clear that overseas based players can’t play outside the international window. Therefore we have a 30 man squad that will prepare to play against the Barbarians. And then obviously the three other internationals follow after that – England, Italy and Wales.
“I see it as a great opportunity for a lot of young players to get a taste of international rugby. To get a taste of being in the Springbok culture and also as a great reward for consistent performances during Super Rugby and Currie Cup. It is really a positive and I’m excited about that.
“We have a 30 man squad that will work hard and make sure we get off to a good start on tour. That is important, because the first game against the Baa-baas will set a good platform for the tour. Therefore it is really important in my opinion to start well.”
Coetzee said there were a few players unlucky not to make it, with Cheetahs prop Ox Nche and Bulls winger Travis Ismaiel as two of the unlucky ones. But they are on the standbye list, and could be called up if there is an injury.
“I’m very excited about the young talent and although a lot of players are unlucky not to have made that squad. I must also say that the final of a Currie Cup is not the benchmark for selection, it is about consistent performances throughout Currie Cup. Certain players played well yesterday and others didn’t play that well but a team has to be selected and approved 2 weeks before the time.
“Certain guys are on standbye, they’ve missed out and they have been informed to be on standbye and hopefully all of them can get an opportunity. I now will also see who will be the guys who going forward can make it at this level.”
The Boks leave for Europe this weekend.
Read the story on SuperSport