Boks and fans can be optimistic
REWIND to late 2016, and the mood around the Springboks was sombre, to say the least. A poor record of four wins in 12 internationals in coach Allister Coetzee’s first year on the job did not inspire confidence.
It was certainly not what followers of the game in South Africa had been accustomed to, even though there had been that surprise defeat to Japan in the 2015 World Cup as a necessary wakeup call.
Coetzee, who, it was said, faced ultimatums six months ago from his bosses which demanded that he begin the 2017 international campaign with a series win against France, has delivered a convincing showing as the team collected two solid wins against Les Bleus in the last 10 days.
Adequate camps and build-up this year and the selection of his own coaching team, with the notable addition of Brendan Venter and Franco Smith, have made for a much more settled side. Coetzee, after loads of criticism, now deserves an equal measure of credit.
The Boks have looked a more organised group, solid in defence when required, as evidenced in the third quarter of Saturday’s clash at Kings Park, and also refreshingly positive on attack.
A lack of tries in so many matches last year has seemingly been overcome, with eight scored in two matches.
There is a lot to be said for momentum in sport, and it’s certainly with the team led by Warren Whiteley for now.
On Saturday, the Boks will be pushing for a clean sweep against France, and with the series already in the bag they will no doubt have a packed house in Johannesburg as a “16th player”. The French are never easy foes, though, so a measure of caution would be advisable.
Argentina await for home and away Tests in August, and bigger fish, in Australia and New Zealand, are next up in the Antipodes in September.
Travelling Down Under will be a serious challenge for South Africa, but on the evidence of the first two Tests this year, there is much to be optimistic about.