Lanky Lood backs Bok coach ‘Toetie’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

WHILE THE storm clouds gather around em­bat­tled Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter “Toetie” Coet­zee with re­ports that he could be soon without a job, Spring­bok lock Lood de Jager, has moved to ab­solve Coet­zee of any short­com­ings af­ter the team’s dis­as­trous year.

De Jager, who was one of the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s stand­out play­ers and also SA Rugby Player of the Year, didn’t mince his words ap­por­tion­ing blame to his team­mates – and him­self – and all but rub­bished talk of Coet­zee not be­ing the right man to lead the Spring­boks to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Last year, which was Coet­zee’s first sea­son in charge of the na­tional side, the Spring­boks lost eight of their 12 Tests that in­cluded a his­toric first home de­feat at the hands of Ire­land, a first loss against Ar­gentina in South Amer­ica and a maiden loss to Italy.

While the knives are out for Coet­zee with the Saru re­port­edly in search of a re­place­ment, De Jager said the play­ers let the coach down by mak­ing too many mis­takes and not fol­low­ing the game­plan he and his as­sis­tants set out for the team.

“The big­gest thing that hin­dered us last year was mis­takes. We had a clear plan and we knew what to do but it was up to the play­ers,” De Jager said.

“As play­ers, and I put my hand up first, we made too many mis­takes. It’s in­di­vid­ual er­rors and if each guy makes mis­takes then it is 50 mis­takes and we lose a Test match. We had clear plans to ex­e­cute and coach Al­lis­ter al­ways gave us a good plan. We knew what to do.”

De Jager called the gen­eral per­for­mance of the team as “av­er­age” and said his team­mates failed to step up to the re­quired stan­dard to be com­pet­i­tive and suc­cess­ful at in­ter­na­tional level.

“We didn’t make the step up last year. We were av­er­age. We didn’t work hard enough at the small things. We weren’t clin­i­cal enough and we made too many er­rors. Ev­ery­body can say this and that but what it boils down to is that we, as play­ers, we were av­er­age. We are to blame for what hap­pened last year and not any­body else,” said De Jager.

It is not all doom and gloom for the Spring­boks and De Jager be­lieves the team’s woes from last year could be the cat­a­lyst to bet­ter per­for­mances.

The lack­lus­tre show­ings in­clud­ing a record de­feat against the All Blacks that could be a bless­ing in dis­guise for a Spring­bok team in dire straits.

The 24 year-old De Jager also high­lighted the team’s low work rate and their in­abil­ity to play for the full 80 min­utes, a sen­ti­ment that is not far from the truth as only two of the 28 play­ers that toured Europe at the end of last year al­legedly passed fit­ness tests.

“I learnt a lot last year about how you have to work to win a Test match.

“We didn’t work hard enough. We had a lot of tal­ent in the side. You have to work to win a Test match, you have to graft it out even against min­nows.

“I don’t think we worked hard enough in the first 60 to 70 min­utes to earn the win. It all comes down to work rate.

“But I see a bright fu­ture for South African rugby. Last year was a wake-up call for the play­ers.”

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