Boks and fans can be op­ti­mistic

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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