Con­di­tion­ing of the play­ers at an all-time high to counter All Blacks in last quar­ter

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE GREENAWAY

THE 2017 Spring­boks will find out if they are the real deal or im­posters when they play the All Blacks in Al­bany to­mor­row, ac­cord­ing to coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee.

While the Boks are un­beaten this year and drew with the Wal­la­bies in Perth last week, Coet­zee said at his team an­nounce­ment yes­ter­day that the chal­lenge against the World Cup hold­ers was on another scale al­to­gether.

“Coach­ing against the All Blacks in New Zealand is mas­sively chal­leng­ing be­cause the odds are not with you, but that is what you have to get the play­ers to buy into — the chal­lenge of win­ning when you are writ­ten off,” Coet­zee said af­ter mak­ing three changes to his team that played last week, two of them in­jury-en­forced.

Jean-luc du Preez comes in at flank in place of crocked Jaco Kriel and there is a well-de­served start for Li­ons strong­man Ruan Dreyer for in­jured Coe­nie Oosthuizen, at tight­head prop.

In an ex­pected ro­ta­tional change, Pi­eter-Steph du Toit makes way for rested Franco Mostert, de­spite the for­mer hav­ing ar­guably his best game of the sea­son against the Wal­la­bies last week.

“The play­ers are gear­ing up for a mas­sive chal­lenge,” Coet­zee said.”You don’t have to say a word to them about what to ex­pect against the All Blacks at home. It comes with the ter­ri­tory but we feel a lot more com­fort­able than we did when we played them last year.

“This year we had much bet­ter prepa­ra­tion time be­fore the French se­ries, which helped tremen­dously, as op­posed to last year when it was bit of a rush job and the play­ers have fed off the se­cu­rity of good prepa­ra­tion and I think ev­ery­body can see that the guys are en­joy­ing the game now.”

Crit­i­cally, Coet­zee said that his play­ers had made progress in clos­ing the gap on the All Blacks in terms of con­di­tion­ing, which has long been a lament of for­mer Spring­bok coaches when they have gone up against the All Blacks.

“The Bok play­ers have not been at a bet­ter con­di­tion­ing level for a long while and you can see the re­sult is that we have had min­i­mal in­juries,” Coet­zee said. “We did a lot of work with the Su­per Rugby coaches, we have been build­ing with the team in the Test matches and we are all ex­cited about now see­ing whether we are in­deed on an up­ward tra­jec­tory. This match will give us a re­al­ity check of where we re­ally are, with re­spect to other teams.”

Coet­zee said that the play­ers were primed to con­cen­trate for more than the 80-min­utes.

“You can­not switch off for a sec­ond against the All Blacks, not un­til you are in the change room. We have seen how Ar­gentina con­ceded points last week in that cru­cial pe­riod five min­utes be­fore half time and the five min­utes af­ter, not to men­tion that ob­vi­ous fi­nal quar­ter.”

Coet­zee said that the game has changed com­pletely in the last five years or so in the pro­gres­sion of the con­tri­bu­tion of the bench, and he feels the Boks have been good in this area this year.

“It has be­come a 23-man ef­fort,” the coach said. “Games can be won and lost in the fi­nal quar­ter when the im­pact play­ers are on.

“Num­bers 16 to 23 have to be as good as the start­ing 15 and just as pre­pared. Ev­ery­one in our squad is as well pre­pared as pos­si­ble.”


HARD MAN: Franco Mostert will have his work cut out for him when the Spring­boks take on the All Blacks to­mor­row.

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