Coet­zee says Kon’nichiwa

CityPress - - Sport - HEN­DRIK CRONJÉ sports@city­press.co.za

Al­lis­ter Coet­zee has al­ready won one cup in Ja­pan and is aim­ing for a sec­ond in his first sea­son as head coach of the Kobe Steel Ko­belco Steel­ers.

Amid all the ru­mours that he has the in­side track to be­come the next Spring­bok coach, the 52-yearold Coet­zee yes­ter­day made it clear that his “only fo­cus [cur­rently] is to en­sure a suc­cess­ful sea­son with the Ko­belco Steel­ers”.

Coet­zee’s team won the Pre­sea­son League, which is played with­out any test play­ers, by beat­ing the Sun­tory Sun­go­liath team in the fi­nal.

“Our first goal was im­prov­ing player depth. Our next goal is to keep this mo­men­tum and to fur­ther build on it in the Top League,” said Coet­zee.

“I’m sat­is­fied with the work ethic and at­ti­tude of An­dries Bekker, Jaque Fourie and the All Black Andy El­lis. Our five Ja­panese test play­ers have also in­te­grated well.

“I am hon­oured to be part of a good rugby club, which has made my ad­just­ment here eas­ier. With my back­ground as a lan­guage teacher and my knack for lan­guages, it helps a lot to learn Ja­panese.

“Afrikaans is my first lan­guage, English and isiXhosa sec­ond and third lan­guages, and I’m try­ing to mas­ter Ni­hongo as my fourth. I get lessons twice a week and in­ter­preters are avail­able daily at prac­tice and meet­ings.”

He ad­mits, how­ever, that ev­ery coun­try has its unique chal­lenges.

“But that is what makes coach­ing so ex­cit­ing. The big­gest chal­lenge here is out­lin­ing the phi­los­o­phy of the club and where we as man­age­ment and the play­ers want to take the club, es­pe­cially given the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and na­tion­al­i­ties in the team.

“That is some­thing I saw as a pri­or­ity dur­ing my time at the Storm­ers and which I im­ple­mented mean­ing­fully.”

The in­flu­ence on lo­cal rugby of Ja­pan’s good per­for­mance at the World Cup is in­de­scrib­able, he said.

“Every­one here is com­mit­ted to leav­ing a sus­tained and pos­i­tive im­pres­sion, es­pe­cially in view of the next World Cup, when Ja­pan will be the host. The in­ter­est in this year’s Top League is in­cred­i­ble and the games are very well at­tended.

“Their per­for­mance at the World Cup has also breathed con­fi­dence into the play­ers and the lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion. There is cur­rently an un­par­al­leled up­surge in rugby.”

Nev­er­the­less, Coet­zee is pre­dict­ing that Su­per Rugby is go­ing to teach the sole Ja­panese team, the Sun­wolves, many things.

“There is lots of trav­el­ling and the gru­elling se­ries makes phys­i­cal de­mands on the play­ers.

“It is also a long sea­son for the Ja­panese play­ers. Right af­ter the World Cup, they started play­ing in the Top League, which only ends at the end of Jan­uary. After that, the Su­per Rugby se­ries starts.

“The play­ers will have to be man­aged well. Nev­er­the­less, I be­lieve that with the work ethic I ex­pe­ri­enced here first-hand, such chal­lenges can be sur­mounted.”

DEN­VOR DE WEE PHOTO:

DO­ING WELL Former Storm­ers

coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee

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