Boks mov­ing in right di­rec­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUZYEN

IT was ev­ery­thing Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee could have wished for at the start of the 2017 Test sea­son: there was the vic­tory, there was plenty to be en­cour­aged about re­gard­ing the style of play and the Boks’ per­for­mance, and there were in­di­vid­u­als who stood up and de­liv­ered.

And after a de­cent, if not bril­liant 80 min­utes Coet­zee said there was more to come from Warren White­ley and his men … much more.

“Let’s make one thing clear, we have closed the chap­ter on 2016,” said a de­lighted Coet­zee after the Boks ran in four tries to two to down France 37-14 in the first Test on Satur­day.

“I am happy and pleased with the per­for­mance… and take note, not nec­es­sar­ily the win, but the per­for­mance,” added Coet­zee, who went into the match un­der pres­sure after just four wins in 12 matches last sea­son.

“What is pleas­ing is that things we worked on came off, be it in at­tack, or de­fence, or in our kick­ing. We are tak­ing baby steps and this was our first step… the first one of 13 this year.

“Noth­ing is per­fect in a game of rugby, but with this win we have showed we are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

In­deed, it was an ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing 80-minute ef­fort. The four debu­tants per­formed su­perbly, Mal­colm Marx pro­duced a barn-storm­ing per­for­mance at hooker, Eben Etze­beth was colos­sal in the sec­ond row, Siya Kolisi sur­prised at No 6, as did Oupa Mo­hoje at blind­side, while the backs showed plenty with ball in hand to think there are great things to come.

The game man­age­ment by Elton Jantjies was good and he var­ied his op­tions well, while there was a step up in the de­fen­sive de­part­ment, es­pe­cially late on in the match when the Boks were asked to make sev­eral tack­les to keep the vis­i­tors out, and the set-pieces also func­tioned well.

“De­fend­ing well is about how hard you work, about hav­ing the right at­ti­tude, and in this team there is real gees (spirit)… there’s an aware­ness to work hard for each other, for the play­ers to put their bod­ies on the line, a brother­hood that has de­vel­oped, and that is pleas­ing,” said Coet­zee.

Cap­tain White­ley said the most sat­is­fy­ing as­pect of his team’s per­for­mance on Satur­day was the in­ten­sity in their game.

“I’m proud of the ef­fort put in, the in­ten­sity with which we played. The guys were quick off the ground and al­ways ready to play. We had op­tions, too, in our at­tack, we were re­silient in de­fence, and I thought we worked re­ally hard for each other… and we want to take that for­ward now,” White­ley said.

He added the win was a good foun­da­tion to build on. “This was by no means the per­fect per­for­mance but the foun­da­tion has been laid,” said White­ley. “We’ll keep our feet on the ground, enjoy the win and start work­ing hard on Mon­day.”

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