Cape Town – Predecessor Heyneke Meyer had
one start-out advantage over newly-appointed Springbok head coach Allister
Coetzee … much longer to get his ducks in a row for his first Test series.
The pair boast similar starts in terms of
itinerary structure, with Coetzee squaring up to Ireland in three home contests
in the traditional June Test window, whereas Meyer began his four-year tenure also
with a trio of challenges from visiting England in that period.
But the big difference is that Meyer
settled into his position on January 27 2012, some four weeks even before Super
In the case of Coetzee, who at one stage
had seemed likely to be nailed down for the post before Christmas, seven rounds
of Super Rugby had already taken place before he was finally confirmed in
Johannesburg on Tuesday.
That leaves the 52-year-old, by contrast,
only some 60 days before his troops run out against the Irish in the first
clash at Newlands on June 11.
Not only has there been no Bok squad
get-together of any kind yet in 2016, but the important captaincy – with
veterans like Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez all retired
from the international fray – is yet to be finalised, with Coetzee saying at
his maiden press conference that he wishes to consult with various senior minds
in the camp first.
While the former Stormers mastermind may
well be expected to name his preference a bit more swiftly, it should be
remembered that Meyer waited until the lead-up week to the first Test against
England in Durban to reveal that De Villiers was his choice for the series (an
appointment later made much more permanent).
Results-wise, Meyer largely hit the ground
running against those foes in 2012, deservedly winning both of the first two
Tests before a 14-14 stalemate in Port Elizabeth for a 2-0 final outcome.
There are certain similarities in first
opponents, as Stuart Lancaster’s England on that occasion didn’t arrive as Six
Nations champions; they were runners-up to Wales who did the Grand Slam that
Ireland will come as third-placed finishers
in the time-honoured northern hemisphere competition this year, with a 50
percent record (two wins, two losses and a draw) and widespread acknowledgement
that they are “rebuilding” after being champions in both 2014 and 2015.
The Irish, currently a moderate sixth on
the World Rugby rankings in comparison with the Boks’ third, were beaten
quarter-finalists (by Argentina) at the 2015 World Cup.
Coetzee’s South Africa are unlikely to fall
into the trap of under-estimating Ireland, who still boast some high-quality
individuals, and it is often a characteristic of Bok players to put in a
particularly industrious effort initially as they go all out to impress a new
The Irish have lost all seven prior Test
matches on these shores and many local pundits and Bok supporters will be
secretly – or more brashly than that? – envisaging a 3-0 sweep, despite
Coetzee’s unusually short preparation period.
He is seasoned enough as a coach in
first-class rugby to know how to make best use of a compressed time-frame …
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing