Boks: Little to gain, all to lose against Italy

2016-11-15 12:18
Allister Coetzee (Getty)

Cape Town - The Boks, backs against the wall and with the rugby public growing increasingly frustrated, should have some kind of reprieve this weekend when they tackle Italy in Florence. 

But, how much will that really matter in the greater scheme of things? 

There are some who are so disheartened with the state of Springbok rugby that an Italy win, although highly unlikely, has not been written off entirely. 

That surely won't happen. Italy have their own problems, with players out injured following last weekend's 68-10 loss to a watered down All Black side. 

They lost every one of their matches in the Six Nations this year, are 13th in the world rankings behind - Georgia, Fiji and Japan - and their most impressive victory in 38 matches is a 22-19 win over Scotland at Murrayfield back in 2015!

As bad as the Boks have been, they should have enough about them to avoid an upset.

Next weekend's clash against Wales, however, will come with no guarantees. 

Whatever happens in these final two matches of the year, it has been a woeful start to Allister Coetzee's tenure as national coach. 

His record currently stands at Played 10, Won 4, and even if he records victories against both Italy and Wales it will be the Springboks' worst year in a decade

On the surface, this weekend may seem like a breath of fresh air for Coetzee and the Boks, but there is actually very little to gain. 

A win - even a dominant one - will in no way relieve any of the pressure on Coetzee. Italy are not a threat and a commanding performance against them will do nothing to suggest that the Boks are on the mend.  

Coetzee needs the Boks to score tries ... and a lot of them!

That is the expectation against minnow opposition, and if the Boks do not score at least four or five tries, it will be considered a poor showing. 

There is little to gain, but much to lose. 

If the Boks struggle to get going on Saturday, and especially if they grind out a win with an uninspired attack as they did against Australia at Loftus last month, then the backlash will be brutal. 

Under Coetzee the Springboks have struggled to hold onto the ball, they have lacked momentum, have failed to deliver any sustained periods of attack, have kicked poorly and, all too often, have looked devoid of ideas with ball in hand.

Those problems, if they persist against Italy, could make for a scrappy affair and that is the last thing that Coetzee needs. 

Team selection will be interesting. 

Will the under-fire coach back the players he chose in what was a new-look side for the Twickenham clash? Or will he ring the changes? 

Whichever way he decides to go, the performance needs to mirror a side ranked in the top four in the world. 

The Boks are, or were once, considered a powerhouse in world rugby. 

Italy, even if they are in a spot of bother themselves, will be fancying this one nonetheless. 

South African fans have had very little to celebrate on the rugby field this year. Hopefully, this weekend, they can at least get a rare glimpse of the Boks running in a few tries. 

But while that may provide a few moments of entertainment, it may do nothing to lift the doom and gloom long-term. 

Read more on:    springboks  |  allister coetzee  |  rugby

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