But he did add that the loss was “the darkest moment of my coaching career” after the Boks went down for the first time in 13 Tests to the lowly Azzurri, who failed to win a single match in this year’s Six Nations and who have a new coach in former Irish fullback Conor O’Shea.
Italy also came off a 68-10 hiding at the hands of the All Blacks in Rome last weekend, and lost seasoned campaigner in hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini for the Bok Test, as well as prop Andrea Lovotti to injury.
But with South African-born Dries van Schalkwyk scoring an early try, and with SA-linked coaches such as Mike Catt, Marius Goosen and Brendan Venter in their management ranks, the Azzurri engineered one of the biggest shocks in recent times that ranks alongside Japan’s sensational triumph over Heyneke Meyer’s Boks at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Italians won the physical battle and tackled Coetzee’s team backwards at every opportunity, with their rush defence tactic working a charm.
But despite yet another mediocre performance from his team that has resulted in a record of seven defeats in 11 Tests, Coetzee is not ready to throw in the towel. Asked if he would consider resigning after the Florence debacle, the 53-year-old said: “That is out of my hands. But definitely not Springbok standard. Definitely, I’d say, probably the darkest moment of my coaching career… toughest.
“But I don’t want to look at it emotionally now, because emotions are high. It’s a really difficult position to be in. Not easy. No disrespect to Italy, but it’s not good enough for the Springboks to lose to Italy. I can only congratulate them on an outstanding victory.”
The Boks have shown little progress in trying to evolve their game plan from their traditional, forward-based style to a more attacking strategy, despite Coetzee’s weekly talk about “changing the mindset” and keeping more ball-in-hand.
The South Africans went right back into their conservative shells, with one-off forward runners off the scrumhalf being the order of the day, interspersed with moments of individual brilliance from fullback Willie le Roux, who broke the Italian line often.
But it was a largely disjointed performance, with a real lack of cohesion, while there were also a number of questionable selections.
SA Rugby announced on Saturday night that they will hold a full review into the Boks’ performance in 2016 after the tour.
Coetzee, though, still believes he is the right man for the job ahead of the last Test against Wales in Cardiff next Saturday.
“I still think so. And to be honest, and you can speak to the captain here, I don’t think I’ve lost the change room, definitely not,” he said.
“We had a good plan, like every week, and the players bought into the plan. And somehow when the pressure is on, when Italy got belief back and the margins stayed close, and they had a sniff and thought that they were in this, and they were actually doing well, we went outside the plan again.
“And we made mistakes again. And got stuck into that rut again. But the plan is always there, and there is never a moment at training where I can say that the players didn’t pitch up for training today.
“It’s been a great week in Florence, it’s been great preparation, and the weather was dry up until yesterday. So in terms of the preparation, there was nothing wrong with that, the energy or the effort.”
Original source: Allister: I still think I’m the right man for Boks