Springboks

Mallett hails 'incredible' Springboks turnaround

2017-06-25 19:55
Nick Mallett (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Former South Africa forward and coach Nick Mallett hailed the Springboks for completing a 3-0 Test series whitewash over France on Saturday.

"Incredible," said the SuperSport TV analyst, referring to the dramatic turnaround in fortunes for a country that has won the World Cup twice.

South Africa beat France 37-14 in Pretoria, 37-15 in Durban and 35-12 in a Johannesburg Test that drew 55,820 spectators on a cold evening.

Eight months ago the Springboks were jeered after a 57-15 thrashing in Durban from their greatest rivals New Zealand.

It was among eight losses in 12 Tests during 2016 -- a calendar-year record for a team since it first competed internationally in 1891.

Mallett, who also coached Italy and French club Stade Francais, singled out relentless tackling as a key factor in the transformation of the Springboks.

"There has been a massive step-up in tackling from 2016," he said. "The laziness of last season has gone and in its place has come collective enthusiasm."

Mallett said the addition of 1995 Springbok World Cup-winning centre Brendan Venter to a coaching staff headed by Allister Coetzee was another key factor.

"He has a very strong personality," he said of the Cape Town-based doctor who has held varying coaching positions in South Africa, England and Italy.

Venter has been widely praised for changing the sieve-like Springboks defence of last year into a unit that restricted France to four tries in three Tests.

"I also believe Brendan has helped Allister in creating a brotherhood, as they call it, in the Springboks squad."

Mallett was critical of France, who were expected to provide tougher opposition, especially in Durban when the team was bolstered by Toulon and Clermont stars.

"I was bitterly disappointed with France. They looked poorly coached, poorly prepared and lost the physical battles in each Test."

Fellow SuperSport analyst and former Springboks flyhalf and skipper Naas Botha echoed the views of Mallett.

"France were not at their best -- they looked tired and some of the decision making was extremely poor," he said.

"The Johannesburg Test was not a great game, but the Springboks did what they had to. A 3-0 whitewash is a very pleasant change from last season."

Former South Africa lock Victor Matfield noted how the support for the team soared during the series, rising from 29,000 in Pretoria to 42,000 in Durban and 55,820 in Johannesburg.

"South Africans love the Springboks and the attendances tell us that the faith of the public in the team has been restored," he said.

The Springboks next play on August 19 at home to Argentina in a Rugby Championship first-round fixture in eastern Cape coastal city Port Elizabeth.

Read more on:    springboks  |  nick mallet  |  rugby
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