Cape Town - New Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has rubbished thoughts that he will not adopt an attack-minded approach in his tenure in charge of the national side.
One of the big criticisms often levelled against Coetzee when he was coach of the Stormers was that he was too defensively-minded. At stages the Stormers struggled to score tries but had a water-tight defence that helped get them through the season on the right side of results, but with little entertainment value.
It is a criticism often thrown his way by those less than enthusiastic for Coetzee to get the job.
Surprisingly for these critics Coetzee has committed himself to an attacking philosophy, but underlines the importance of winning test matches.
This is a reality that isn’t always understood, with the pressure being first on the Bok coach to turn the Springboks into a winning team. That being said, the need for the Boks to adapt to a game plan where all their strengths are used, and not just a few, is a big point that Coetzee wants to concentrate on during his short time with the team.
“Test rugby isn’t about entertaining,” Coetzee said when quizzed about his Stormers defensive approach and how it would relate to his new job description.
“But the game has evolved and so have coaches. I will be really naïve to say that at the time we embarked at the Stormers to create a culture that was defensive. Yes it was good to create a good defence and to put teams under pressure like this.
“I eluded to that but there are more than two areas to pressurise teams by, and there is also an attacking element to this. Your defence is not as good if you don’t score tries from the turnovers you create on defence. Your kicking game is not good if you just pressurise. Our players need to understand that there is an integration, a balanced game we need to play.”
Coetzee wants to place the emphasis more on the team’s attack strategy, and in particular decision-making. This was a point that his predecessor Heyneke Meyer also complained about, that players fall back into a mindset if they are placed under pressure.
“Also there needs to be awareness. If you only have a kicking game, do you think you will have width when you turn the ball over? Do you think you will have options to run? No, you will just chase. If we say we set up to run first, then our nines and 10s will decide when to kick. Then you have options to play it wide when it is on.
“That is a mindset, and that is what we tried to move away from in the Stormers, we knew you cant just defend a win. We knew we have to attack, and it took time. You do it well at Currie Cup level without Springboks and when they come back you have to get them to buy in, so it takes time.”
Coetzee says that his approach will be helped by the fact that most of the Super Rugby franchises in South Africa have placed more emphasis on attack and with some rewards already.
“It is great to see that all coaches at Super Rugby level has this awareness that we need to brush up on our attack. That is the one element we need, we can pressurise with defence and with kicking, but we don’t execute yet with ball in hand. That is what the emphasis is on, not to the detriment of the other departments. Keep that there, but just move on with this. How do we move on? We need to make sure there is speed of movement, speed of ball, speed of hands, speed of decision-making.
“Our biggest thing that we underrate is our communication skills. If I don’t hear you on the outside I don’t hear you, then I will always come back inside. Then we say at home, why doesn’t he pass? He doesn’t know there is someone on the outside. We need to look at our decision-making and our attacking skills for our decision-makers on the field.
“At Super Rugby level they are already busy with that, but we won’t deviate from our strengths, our physicality.” While most would agree with his outlook, coaches know the proof is in the pudding and how successful he will be in trying to get the Boks to play a more expansive game waits to be seen.
But Coetzee has taken the first bold step forward at least.
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