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Rugby | Springboks

Allister Coetzee © Gallo Images

Allister defends his Bok tour record



Springbok coach Allister Coetzee launched a feisty and passionate defence of his coaching record and the team's performances in Europe on their recent tour, praising his team and reiterating that they had improved despite losing to a weakened Wales and Ireland on the four-week trip.

Coetzee said he was positive about the future and believed the Boks were moving in the right direction, despite a 43 percent win record since he took over and South Africa dropping from third to sixth on the World Rankings.

While the weekend’s result was bad, Coetzee’s seven-minute defence of his team underlined that he is under pressure and wants South Africans to hear his side of the story.

“If I start off by saying, between success and failure, it is very small margins. I just have to look at the last test against Wales, we lost by a penalty in the last few minutes. We had opportunities as well – Handre Pollard hitting the upright and Malcolm Marx’s try that was disallowed,” he said.

“On the other hand, Wales got off to a flyer. They got two pinpoint kicks. And it has nothing to do with who should have played where and who should have been in what position. Accurately and tactically it worked out, and they scored from it. Unfortunately for us, we are not there yet. But I’m so pleased there is 50 percent improvement from last year. Last year we never won a test on the tour. After our setbacks, this year we won two.

“To me this tour has been a satisfactory one. And you must understand that I started with a new team this year. There were 12 new caps this year. Twelve guys playing for the first time in Europe. If you look at 2014, with a very experienced team, the Boks went there and they lost the same two games – Ireland and Wales – with players in their third year of Springbok rugby.

“If this was my first year I would have been in a much better position. But unfortunately I had to start afresh, start with new coaches, start with new players. And for this year I am really pleased with the progress made. The progress made in our inbound tour. We had three wins against France, we won away against Argentina and we beat them at home. We had two draws unfortunately against Australia, one terrible game against New Zealand. Then the one at Newlands. If you look at it, in nine games we haven’t lost this year. In nine games, that is how I look at it, and that to me is a massive positive.”

Coetzee said looking ahead he was positive about the progress and believes the backline problems are simply due to a lack of experience.

EXPERIENCE NEEDED

“I’m positive about the progress that we have made. I’m positive about the young players. If you look at the loose trio for instance. Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen played against Italy and France and we won those two games. We have Jaco Kriel out, we have Warren Whiteley out and we have Jean-Luc du Preez out. And yet we could still go there and play without those players – it tells me something about the depth that we have in South Africa.

“We have Vincent Koch overseas, we have Frans Malherbe and Coenie Oosthuizen out and here comes a Wilco Louw, and he has been awesome this year. Those are the big positives for me, that we have players that can compete and just get better and gain experience.

“Our average 'age' in terms of caps for our backs is ten. That is the experience we have in the backline. A lot of people are saying and you guys are writing that the backs aren’t really there yet. They aren’t there yet because they aren’t experienced yet. We all said that with Warrick. Yes, he is a brilliant player but it is his second test that he has played in. Yes, people say that he is playing out of position, but the kicks in the test have nothing to do with the positional play. What one has to understand, the Welsh cut the All Blacks and scored from first phase play, so you have to defend with 13 guys up. We had our wings up, and they exploited that, keeping to one wing, faking to one side, keeping the one wing, so we would have been late to cover all the time, and then those little grubbers and the kicks worked. In defence there is no team in the world that can stop everything. The kick-space, the run-space, the direction -- it doesn’t work in defence like that. In some ways they exploited it and they got it spot on. Those kicks were as accurate as they could have been.

“The way we fought back in the test, I’m really pleased about that.

Coetzee continued to explain that while there were “mistakes” in the game plan against Ireland, the team had actually progressed.

“Against Ireland we made a couple of mistakes, I think tactically we didn’t approach that one right. We needed distance kicking, if you kick for distance then you will get more lineouts in the opposition half. We opted to go more contestable and the contestables weren’t that good. The second thing was our discipline. After losing Coenie so early in the game against Ireland, we battled at scrum time. There we conceded a couple of penalties. Those were the mistakes against Ireland that we made. Discipline wasn’t really up to it.

“After that we conceded 13 penalties against France, eight against Italy and only three against Wales. So we have progressed in many ways. Our discipline was something to build on.”

Coetzee continued to say that Southern Hemisphere rugby was “far removed” from test rugby, and that while Wales were missing more than a dozen players, the experience in their backline was what gave them an edge.

“I’d like to make another point, we are so far removed in the Southern Hemisphere from test rugby and we shouldn’t underestimate that. When we play in Super Rugby it is completely different. Club rugby lends itself closer to test match rugby than you can get. The last test, the roof was open and it rained, we had wet conditions. And when it is wet and in those conditions you are actually better off without the ball at times, and you are better off turning the opposition and putting it in behind them. In Super Rugby we have a ball in hand mindset and that is great and I’ve seen how our skills have developed because of that. All that we need is more experience from our nines, 10s and 15s to get us in the right areas and be more tactically astute.

“I tell you what, Wales, they were not there with their full-strength side, but they were prepared to pay £60 000 to keep Taulupe Faletau to play for Wales – he was supposed to play for Bath, but they took the fine and they paid that money. Their fullback – Leigh Halfpenny – was there with 60-odd caps. Their 10 – Dan Biggar – 59 caps – was there. Those are the game managers that run the show in those conditions and how to play in the northern hemisphere. Folatau, part of their spine, with more than 50 caps. That is the experience we are talking about.”

Coetzee is sure to put the same defence in front of SA Rugby when his performance review comes up. The question now is whether SA Rugby accept his explanation, or whether they feel someone else should coach the Springboks?



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