Suc­cess­ful tour vi­tal for Coet­zee’s fu­ture

The Herald (South Africa) - - SPORT - Liam del Carme

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

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