Rugby Championship

Season-defining Test for Coetzee, Boks

2017-09-28 12:16
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Bloemfontein - One bad performance does not define a team. 

That was the message from Springbok coach Allister Coetzee following the 57-0 disaster against the All Blacks in Albany two weekends ago. 

He was right. Even if that performance was the worst result in the history of Springbok rugby, it would not be enough to define a Springbok side that had shown significant improvements in 2017. 

On the day, everything that could go the All Blacks' way, did, and they delivered their best performance of the year to absolutely obliterate the Boks. 

It has been a long two weeks since then. 

The Boks returned home to a vocal and critical reception from a rugby public that had just started to believe again after going six matches undefeated this year. 

Just like that, the pressure is on once more. 

Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against Australia in Bloemfontein has turned into a must-win, and while that could be said about any Test match, there is something different about this one. 

At the same stage of the competition last year, the Boks were desperate for a win against the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld having lost to Argentina, Australia and New Zealand away. 

Coetzee's response was to turn to Morne Steyn, who kicked all the points for an 18-10 win in a move that said a lot about just how much the coach needed a result. 

Things may have gone better in the Rugby Championship this year for the Boks - they won in Argentina and drew in Australia - but that All Black result went a long way towards undoing all of the good. 

Against the Wallabies, the Boks need a win to restore the belief that they are, in fact, on the right track. More than that, they need to win convincingly, and not like they did at Loftus last year. 

Franco Smith has been talking in the build-up to the match about how the Springbok emphasis is still on attack and ball-in-hand rugby, but when you leave a Test match with no points to show for your efforts, it is hard to believe that the side's attack is in a healthy state. 

On Saturday, the Boks need to deliver not only a result, but a performance that shows that they have quickly moved on from Albany. 

There are still five Tests to come in 2017 after this one, but the Wallabies on Saturday is more important than any of them right now. 

A victory would solidify second place on the table for the Boks, but defeat would be catastrophic. 

A loss would suggest that South African rugby is still in a dark place and that the national side has not made the strides everyone had hoped to see this year. 

With Rassie Erasmus on his way to South Africa, things are set to change. And if Coetzee wants to build on the work that he has done so far this year, up until Albany, and show that he is taking this team somewhere, then he cannot afford any more slip-ups. 

The knives, once more, are out. And they won't be going anywhere if the Boks don't get the job done against the Wallabies.

Follow Sport24's @LloydBurnard for updates from Bloemfontein...

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Saturday, 18 August 2018
South Africa v Argentina, Durban 00:00
Saturday, 25 August 2018
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