Successful tour vital for Coetzee’s future
THE All Blacks may represent the ultimate test but how Allister Coetzee navigates what Ireland, France, Italy and Wales have in store for him and his team over the coming Saturdays may determine his continued presence in the hot seat of South African rugby.
This tour marks more or less the halfway mark in his contractual obligations to SA Rugby and while his team have shown definite improvement this year, the coach, you sense, is not out of the woods yet.
The year 2016 is difficult to shake, especially with the wins column showing modest return.
Few, however, would have expected a radical improvement in fortunes this year.
Coetzee’s team started off a very low base this season, and improvement needs to be placed into context.
Under him, the team have won just once on the road in the last two years and that win, to much relief, came earlier this year against the struggling Argentina.
Away wins need to come more regularly.
“It is hugely important,” flank Siya Kolisi said about getting a win over Ireland on Saturday.
“It’s about momentum as well. This for us is the most important game.
“We are putting everything into this game,” Kolisi said. No pressure then.
There is no doubt the Boks have performed better this season.
More time to prepare ahead of the season and improved conditioning have made them more competitive. But have they improved enough?
Ireland, who Coetzee earlier this week described as the All Blacks of Europe, have an impressive recent record against the Boks.
Five of their six wins ever over South Africa have come since 2004, when Jake White famously said no one in the Ireland team would make a combined best XV between the two sides.
This week Coetzee has done just the opposite.
“They are ahead of us in terms of world ranking. Last year, to be honest, we were lucky to win the series in South Africa,” the coach admitted, perhaps over-graciously, yesterday.
If Coetzee is trying to apply reverse psychology, that is his prerogative, but his team will have to produce a performance of substance come Saturday.
He has assembled a squad for this test that is a slight departure from the one that ran the All Blacks close in Cape Town.
What however, if things turn pearshaped with them investing so much in the result of the first test?
Coetzee cannot, well, is unlikely, to call on the cavalry. No 8 Duane Vermeulen and utility back but mostly inside centre Frans Steyn are by no means off limits, but what they bring in sheer physical impact is offset with disruption to team dynamic.
“They are obviously in the bigger plan. I learnt lessons last year.
“Time to prepare is of the essence in international rugby,” Coetzee said.
We are putting everything into this game