And it’s not just about conservatism in tactics and selection, but also providing opportunities for players of colour to prove themselves at a higher level.
Coetzee got it right on most fronts - picking on form, including experienced players, and ushering in a new era for Springbok rugby when it comes to embracing a more positive, attacking style of play.
A typically South African concern would be that 24-year-old Sharks flyhalf Garth April was picked on the back of seven Super Rugby caps, alongside Elton Jantjies, who has just two Test caps.
It was also pointed out to the Bok coach that there is inexperience at scrumhalf, with Ruan Pienaar having declared himself unavailable for the Irish series, and Fourie du Preez having retired earlier this year, which saw Lions star Faf de Klerk, the Bulls’ Rudy Paige and Stormers No 9 Nic Groom chosen as the halfbacks.
Coetzee - often regarded as a fairly conservative figure himself - answered in a manner that showed he is determined to stride down a refreshing new path.
“It is exciting, rather than a concern. Somehow, they have to start. I remember in 2004, when I started out with Jake White, the big thing was to make sure these guys had the necessary experience come 2007 World Cup, and they did accumulate those Tests,” the coach said.
“And the performance I’ve seen tonight by a Faf de Klerk, I’ve got no doubt that Faf - Rudy’s had a lot of experience in the last campaign - that they will hold their own. They’ve got experience around them at No 8, and Lambie’s been there, Elton has been playing superb rugby - not just tactically, but also his composure that he’s shown in tough games.
“I like the way Garth has shown composure as a youngster at 10 in top games. And I think it’s important to note that one shouldn’t be scared to expose your young flyhalves early at that level. Because when New Zealand do it and bring a Sopoaga to Ellis Park and they play against the Boks and they win the Test, then it’s really great from the New Zealanders. And we are actually scared to do that.”
There are 12 players of colour in the 31-man Bok squad, which equates to 39% - an admirable figure at this stage, with the ultimate goal being at least 50% by the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The SA “A” has even better representation, with 11 players of colour out of 23, which is 48%. But Coetzee was at pains to explain that those players had earned their place in the respective squads, and it is part of the process of getting them ready for Test rugby.
“In terms of opportunities for people who must be rewarded, it’s not just opportunities because you are a black player. Definitely not - I want to tell it straight to you. Opportunities where players have consistently performed, irrespective of where they play. They’ve shown some skill and talent, which definitely will help them to fit into the A side and perform as well,” he said.
Talking about skill and playing a more attacking game, Coetzee said that “you have to make sure that the personnel matches the philosophy”, and he feels that he has largely achieved that goal with the squad that has been selected.
Of course, he can only be judged fully once his team takes to the field, but to get to the point of being able to beat the All Blacks, Coetzee feels the Boks can’t neglect their scrums and lineouts, defence and kicking game.
“It’s only really attack that we are looking at, and some other countries are probably ahead of us - and here I’m referring again to New Zealand. They’ve got one style and that style is determined from the top, and their franchises play almost the same style,” he said.
“We also want to play an attractive brand of rugby, but when it is on. We also want to play a brilliant kicking and defence game, when it is on. We want to have a balanced game of rugby, and players must make good decisions.
“Yes, we know we should be a bit more attacking-orientated, but to me, it’s a matter of when it is on. And hopefully we can get that right. I don’t promise any fireworks against Ireland in terms of the way we want to play, but there will be a massive emphasis on and awareness of having a go when it’s on.
“The big thing is going to be decision-making. You’ve got to secure good ball, and get the ascendancy at the contact areas. Then we can play with our X-factor players that we have in the team. If you are not able to give Willie le Roux enough space, if you are not able to give Lionel Mapoe enough space, then they won’t be able to show that.”
Original source: Allister shaking off Bok shackles