Pronk­ing again

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

THE Spring­bok is alive and kick­ing and ready to take on any­one in its path, ac­cord­ing to coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee.

The Boks’ clean-sweep of France in their three­Test se­ries this month is an in­di­ca­tion that the hor­rors of last sea­son – when they won just four Tests out of 12 – are well and truly over.

In the last three Tests, the Boks scored 12 tries to four, reg­is­ter­ing sim­i­lar win mar­gins in Pre­to­ria (3714), Dur­ban (37-15) and Jo­han­nes­burg (35-12). Coet­zee, who went into the se­ries un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure to keep his job, said he was sat­is­fied with the turn­around in for­tunes.

“I’m very pleased where we are as a team,” he said af­ter his side’s vic­tory at El­lis Park on Satur­day. “There was a lot of ex­pec­ta­tion go­ing into the Lof­tus game, then we clinched the se­ries in Dur­ban ... but this was all about the se­ri­ous busi­ness of turn­ing things around.

“I thought the play­ers re­sponded bril­liantly. It has not been an easy seven months, go­ing back to De­cem­ber last year. It’s been tough.

“But ev­ery­one in­volved with this team, from the lo­gis­tics guy ... ev­ery­one has chipped in, to make sure the be­lief in the Boks is back again.”

Coet­zee con­tin­ued: “There are a lot of small things that con­trib­ute to suc­cess, things that can’t al­ways be mea­sured, like a spon­sor com­ing on board ... and then the be­lief of the peo­ple around me.

“Coach­ing the Boks is a se­ri­ous busi­ness; week in and week out you man­age mil­lions of peo­ples’ moods.

“It’s not easy, but it is re­ward­ing and in­spir­ing to know that the be­lief is back again.”

Coet­zee said he was now look­ing for­ward to big­ger chal­lenges ahead in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, when the Boks will take on Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

“We will now plan for that. It’s a much tougher com­pe­ti­tion, but we have learned from last year. The travel is an es­pe­cially big chal­lenge ... we first go west to Ar­gentina, then east to Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and then back west again, to play at home,” said Coet­zee. “We will plan and we will be ready.

“What we have achieved against France is very sweet. It’s a good start to the year, but we haven’t achieved any­thing yet.”

While the Boks’ per­for­mance at El­lis Park was the least con­vinc­ing of the se­ries – pos­si­bly be­cause of the dis­rup­tion of hav­ing to make late changes to the back­row fol­low­ing the with­drawal of cap­tain War­ren White­ley – Coet­zee said he was still pleased with the out­come.

“Test rugby is al­ways only about win­ning, whether it is pretty or not. I knew this one wasn’t go­ing to be pretty,” he said.

“We had our ex­e­cu­tion prob­lems af­ter a few dis­rup­tions, but we still chased hard un­til the end of the game and to keep France try­less was cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion.”

In­deed, the Boks’ de­fence through­out the se­ries was a high­light and on Satur­day they again tack­led bril­liantly to keep the French out.

In­deed, Coet­zee con­firmed on Satur­day that de­fence con­sul­tant Bren­dan Ven­ter, who has played a ma­jor role in im­prov­ing the team in that depart­ment, would stay on for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

“The de­fence was not per­fect, there were a cou­ple of mis­takes and missed tack­les, but we got up again and again to make the next tackle and that is ex­cit­ing to see.”

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