It seems a lot like ‘days of fu­ture past’ for Al­lis­ter and his men ...

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR some Spring­bok coaches, it has taken a while be­fore the time ar­rives when they go into sur­vival mode. But for Al­lis­ter Coet­zee, it has come a bit quicker.

The Boks should eas­ily beat the Wallabies in Pretoria. The post- iso­la­tion record between the two coun­tries re­flects that in Tests played on the Highveld, the Aus­tralians have won just once in 12 meet­ings.

But given the team that Coet­zee has se­lected for to­day, with his “safety net” Morne Steyn start­ing at fly­half, you’d have to greet the ex­pected Bok win by ask­ing: “So what?” While it is un­der­stand­able that Coet­zee, faced with the prospect of a neg­a­tive win per­cent­age from his first year, is look­ing at this game as a win-at-all-costs, at some stage you have to start ask­ing when the big­ger goal comes into mind.

It wouldn’t bother me so much that Steyn is al­ready 32, and will be 36 by the time the next World Cup ar­rives, if it weren’t for the fact that Coet­zee’s pre­de­ces­sor was pil­lo­ried for stick­ing with him as long ago as 2012.

Heyneke Meyer even­tu­ally did see the light and in the quest for the more com­plete game that was be­ing de­manded, he jet­ti­soned Steyn and started to back younger play­ers such as Jo­han Goosen, Pat Lam­bie, and then Han­dre Pol­lard.

Steyn does know Lof­tus well and his kick­ing could win the game for the Boks to­day. But how does his play­ing style fit into growth to­wards the game that ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing pre­sum­ably Saru, were as­pir­ing to when the change of coach was made after last year’s World Cup?

Goosen was the man who Meyer backed ahead of Steyn for the cor­re­spond­ing fix­ture against the Wallabies in 2012. Goosen de­liv­ered a star per­for­mance. He was sup­pos­edly the fu­ture then, and he is still young enough to be the fu­ture. If El­ton Jan­tjies was go­ing to be dropped now, surely it was the younger, more dy­namic Goosen who Coet­zee should have turned to?

If you are go­ing to for­ward the ar­gu­ment that Goosen hasn’t played fly­half for a while be­cause of the pres­ence of Dan Carter at his French club, here is a thing – Goosen has more re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing fly­half than Lam­bie, who wears the No 15 to­day, has of play­ing full­back.

We know what Coet­zee wants. He wants a fly­half who will en­sure that the game is played in the right ar­eas of the field. Goosen can do that. He did that in 2012. And he can bring other strengths that Steyn can’t.

Win­ning in the here and now is clearly now up­per­most in Coet­zee’s mind, for he is in that space where he just feels he needs to sur­vive. Many have been there be­fore him.

But is it good for the South African game that we ap­pear once again to be in the of­ten re­peated se­quence that was ex­em­pli­fied by the 2001 Test between these two teams at to­day’s venue, when the at­tack­minded Harry Viljoen switched tack and se­lected Braam van Straaten to spear­head a kick­ing game?

The Boks did win, but it was mean­ing­less in the greater scheme of things. While it might have given Viljoen a re­prieve from the mas­sive pres­sure that had been weigh­ing down on him, the change in ap­proach did not take the South African game for­ward.

If the Boks win to­day be­cause of an old fly­half fol­low­ing old tried- and- tested philoso­phies, it won’t take the Boks for­ward ei­ther.

Let us not for­get why Coet­zee is in his po­si­tion. Trans­for­ma­tion was one is­sue the crit­ics had with Meyer, but his one-di­men­sional play­ing style was an even big­ger one.

When I fi­nally gave up on the thought of Meyer be­ing suc­cess­ful as a Bok coach was when to­wards the end of the World Cup, he showed him­self to be too in­her­ently con­ser­va­tive, both in play­ing style and se­lec­tion.

That Coet­zee might be too con­ser­va­tive is not a thought that has sud­denly ar­rived now. We saw him coach the Storm­ers con­ser­va­tively over many sea­sons, and the mind­set he is show­ing at the mo­ment is just a con­tin­u­a­tion of that.

The re­served sup­port that Coet­zee re­ceived when he was ap­pointed was at­ten­dant on the hope that he’d bring in a heavy­weight as­sis­tant coach or tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor who boasted ex­pe­ri­ence of suc­cess­fully coach­ing the type of rugby that ev­ery­one was cry­ing out for.

He hasn’t done that, and per­haps the most dis­turb­ing as­pect of to­day’s se­lec­tion is how far away Coet­zee has pro­gressed from tap­ping into the se­cret of the Li­ons suc­cess in Su­per Rugby.

The Li­ons are the only lo­cal team who have come any­where close to per­fect­ing the new-age rugby ap­proach, yet no one from that fran­chise is in the man­age­ment group, and to­day there is only one Li­ons player – War­ren White­ley – in the start­ing team.

Some of the Li­ons play­ers haven’t done well since grad­u­at­ing to the next level, but you have to ask whether the prob­lem was with them or with the way the mes­sage they re­ceive when play­ing for the Boks dif­fers from the ad­ven­tur­ous, no fear ap­proach of their fran­chise coach, Jo­han Ack­er­mann.

It’s some­thing to think about. Hav­ing only one starter from the one fran­chise play­ing the mod­ern game prop­erly just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.