Ev­ery­thing in place for suc­cess­ful Bok tour, says coach

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT -

SPRING­BOK coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee fan­cies him­self as a wine con­nois­seur of sorts but his tough­est chal­lenge will be find­ing the per­fect blend of win­ning rugby and im­prove­ment in play­ing style that will be palat­able to most Spring­bok fans on his squad’s four Test tour of Europe.

Coet­zee’s Spring­boks are still a blend in progress but they have al­ready struck the right taste buds this year with most of his play­ers play­ing like grapes from the same vine, un­like last year’s sour vin­tage that lost ev­ery Test in Europe in­clud­ing a first loss to Italy.

But this year is dif­fer­ent, ac­cord­ing to Coet­zee, but it is al­most in­evitable that he, and his side will again be judged by wins and how sweet those vic­to­ries are made by the way the team ex­plodes on the field in the same way a sip of the best blend in the world would in the mouth.

The Boks start their tour with a clash against Ire­land in Dublin on Satur­day (7.30pm SA time kick-off), fol­lowed by a fourth Test meet­ing of the year against France in Paris (9.45pm), then the tricky, ele­phant-in-the room Test against Italy in Padova (3pm), be­fore fin­ish­ing off against Wales in Cardiff (4.30pm).

“We have tough games on tour, not just the open­ing one,” said Coet­zee prior to the team’s de­par­ture on Fri­day.

“Italy will have mas­sive con­fi­dence against us. If you look how they played against Eng­land, they had them for about 68 min­utes and that was at Twick­en­ham.

“So these so-called min­nows are not min­nows any­more and on the day, if you don’t get it right, you can get beaten. All four games will be a hell of a chal­lenge. We lost to Ire­land last year, France will be much bet­ter this time and at home they will be dif­fi­cult and tough to beat; and ob­vi­ously Italy and Wales. We lost to three of those four last year so it is a tough tour, but I’m pleased to say we’ve put in all the hard work.”

It has been in times of drought that Coet­zee has prob­a­bly learnt his big­gest lessons as Spring­bok coach: Never go into a job with­out it be­ing on your own terms, but most im­por­tantly, plan­ning, time and prepa­ra­tion are a win­ning blend.

Coet­zee had the lux­ury of time this year; proper plan­ning with re­gards to train­ing camps dur­ing the Su­per Rugby sea­son, plan­ning and man­ag­ing the en­ergy-sap­ping travel sched­ule of the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, and mak­ing sure the play­ers are in peak con­di­tion for the last but vi­tal leg of the sea­son.

“The rough pe­riod ob­vi­ously is


the time to pre­pare a na­tional team, so that’s a mas­sive les­son for me, and you can­not not have train­ing camps. How can you pre­pare for a Test match in two weeks, how can you? That is what hap­pened last year,” he said.

“How do you build a team en­vi­ron­ment and es­tab­lish a team cul­ture within two weeks? If you get ap­pointed in April, meet your man­age­ment team in May, and you play a Test in June? This year was com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“Ob­vi­ously with the train­ing camps that we’ve had, that is the re­al­ity of coach­ing at in­ter­na­tional level and that is the big­gest les­son I have learnt. Mak­ing sure that there is co­he­sion in the man­age­ment team, un­der­stand­ing that the coach­ing thing is in­te­grat­ing coach­ing philoso­phies be­cause that is how the game is played..”

It will be in that play­ing style and mak­ing sure all the el­e­ments from set-piece to at­tack and de­fence work in uni­son in or­der to at­tain the dom­i­nance that will yield the re­sults Coet­zee is so des­per­ate to achieve to bury the dis­as­ter that was 2016.

“You’ve got to look at the mini-bat­tles be­fore you get to the out­come. The learn­ings from the past is you go over there with a south­ern hemi­sphere mind­set and you are play­ing in north­ern hemi­sphere con­di­tions, so you’ve got to win that bat­tle first, be able to adapt.

“The play­ers want to win the close games and that set-piece bat­tle will be mas­sive. That area (scrums), you saw in the Cur­rie Cup fi­nal what it can do to a team. It doesn’t mat­ter where you play, your psy­che and how much you want to win the game; if you lose the scrum bat­tle, it is like slow poi­son. So line-outs and scrums are go­ing to be vi­tal.

“Our kick­ing game has re­ally been good this year. We’ve had most of our line-outs, es­pe­cially our set­piece, in the op­po­si­tion area and that gave us a plat­form to at­tack and score tries from.

“De­fence is an­other area we’ve re­ally worked hard at. We have evolved as a team; in some games I think we were a bit pas­sive off the lines, some games we were a bit nar­row, and so there are a few things that we’ve worked on.

“I’m pleased that we have set out those goals and achieved a lot of them up un­til now with the con­di­tion­ing, with the way we want to play and make sure we get the ex­e­cu­tion right.

“I know when the re­sult is not there but the other stuff is in place, then the other side is bet­ter on the day. Some­times it hap­pens that your best is not good enough, then I can live with that,” Coet­zee said.

See Page 23

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