Johannesburg - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee reiterated that he won’t stifle any flair in the Springbok side, but underlined the fact that balance is the keyword going forward.
According to the SuperSport website, Coetzee has been at pains to explain why his Springboks won’t simply “copy and paste” the successful formula of the Emirates Lions in Super Rugby and take that forward into the test arena ahead of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
And while many of the critics have simply dismissed his explanations about how he wants the Springboks to play and how the test arena is different to the free flowing patterns seen in Super Rugby, it hasn’t stopped the chorus of comments that the Boks should play simply like one team.
While it is true that the Lions have been extremely successful in Super Rugby and have pointed the way forward for the national team and others with a ball-in-hand approach that is positive, their inability to win a final in poor weather conditions against a rush defence also points to the fact that this isn’t always the correct strategy in a match.
And Coetzee knows that the margins in test rugby are smaller, the space a lot less and the margins for error without being punished extremely small, and that is why he has been selling his mantra of balance rather than all-out attack.
The Bok coach wants the national team to be able to play attacking rugby, but also to be able to adapt to any challenge that lies before them. And while it is important to play positively, his primary objective is to win as national coach and by any means necessary.
This means that when it becomes a dogfight in tough conditions, the Boks will need to adapt and change their game, but when the field is hard and the gaps are there to be taken, they can launch from anywhere.
In essence Coetzee wants smart Springbok players who will make the right decisions based on what is in front of them, and not simply robots who must play to a game plan – whoever that game plan belongs too.
With two players from the Sevens squad and nine Lions players as well as some of the best attacking talent in the world, Coetzee needs to mould it into a Bok side that can play anyone, anywhere and be successful.
And that is why he was at pains again on Monday to reiterate his willingness to allow freedom in the game plan, despite what his critics say.
“There is nothing different that they bring here,” Coetzee replied when asked what different aspects the Sevens players would bring to the camp.
“We’re sitting with players who have certain skillsets. I know you guys are writing a lot about the Lions but nobody stifles any skillset in the Bok setup. I still expect the Sevens players to bring that Sevens flair, to bring that breakdown skill, to bring that decision-making to the party.
“I still expect the Lions players to bring their style, the way they are playing and that skillset. Nobody stifles that. Our main thing is that there should be balance. And that is the focus at test match.”
Coetzee said the Lions’ experience in the Super Rugby final added to the players’ abilities to handle every single situation and when they arrive in a similar one in the future, they will be better equipped to make better decisions. The Bok coach added he would never stop the players from expressing their natural talent.
“We have gone through what the Lions have experienced in the final, it happens and it helps us, and helps the players to grow when we talk about balance and decision-making. But there will be no stifling when it is on then do X, Y and Z, it is not. If it is on, and you make the right decision it will always be good.
“If it looks on and you don’t make the right decision, then people say ‘hey, where’s your plan B?’. It is no Plan A, B or C. If I have plan B then I must have a different line-up for plan B and a different line-up for plan A.
“When we kick off one way a different plan. The balance, the pressure at the breakdown and good decision-making is key.
“And obviously win, with that balanced pressure, win. This game is not so complicated, we tend to over-complicate it at times. “
On Saturday the Boks will open their Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina and Coetzee’s work will be put into practice.
While Los Pumas will always be tough opposition, the Boks are hoping they will get the chance to express themselves, and take them a step forward on the journey under the new coach.
Read the story on Supersport