But after a few defeats he brought back Morne Steyn at flyhalf. He remarked then that the defence problems occurred ‘maybe because we became obsessed with ball-in-hand rugby and being expansive’.
Then last week, before the England Test, Coetzee again changed his tune, stating that he wanted the Boks to play ‘definitely more ball-in-hand, without neglecting or becoming reckless. But kick with purpose, to get the ball back obviously. Where the space is on, we have to run it there or kick it there’.
That certainly wasn’t evident in the 37-21 defeat at Twickenham, where the Boks used the boot as a first and only option to try to put England under pressure.
Even when they produced something different by throwing a line-out to Damian de Allende over the top, it ended in Pat Lambie slotting a left-footed drop goal.
There was also a lot of aimless kicking by fullback Willie le Roux, who hardly looked to counter-attack.
But can the Boks beat teams like the All Blacks, Wallabies and England with such a limited approach of kicking penalties and drop goals? And why is it so important to embrace an attacking mindset in Test rugby?
“It’s very important because if you control the attack, you control the defence as well. The one works hand-in-hand with the other,” former Bok backline coach and inside centre Dick Muir told Independent Media ahead of the Test against Italy in Florence.
“It depends on the coach and how you see it. But if you can embrace attack with the ball and attack without the ball type of approach, it just balances itself out.
“So, it’s about when you’ve got possession, you hold on to it, and without possession, you are always seeking to gain it. That changes the philosophy from trying to kick the ball away the whole time.
“If your attack is not effective, then you end up using all your energy in trying to do something, but not gaining any reward for it.
“The big thing with attack, the key fundamental is straight running, and not going across the field.
“If every player runs straight and they move the ball, and somebody is going across field and you change direction and the angle of your attack, you will be that much more effective attacking-wise.”
The Boks have scored just 17 tries in 10 Tests during 2016, and conceded 31 in losing six games. In Muir’s first year as a coach with the national team during the Peter de Villiers era, they dotted down 42 times in 13 matches, and gave away just 16 as they won nine and lost four in 2008.
Muir believes Lions star Rohan Janse van Rensburg can be key for Coetzee’s team. “They’re going across field, they’re not running straight. Somebody’s got to straighten the line. And we’ve got some really good attacking players. My one concern is why they don’t select probably the best centre in the country in Janse van Rensburg,” he said.
“The whole backline centres around somebody who can get you over the gain-line, where you can get momentum, and then to be able to distribute the ball. So, he understands that depth, and I think he’d be an asset to the Boks.
“The No 12’s role is to straighten the line first of all, and to fix the defenders, then to move the ball to where the space is.
“You’ve got to just feel sorry for whoever is at 10, because if that job outside of him is not being done effectively, then there’s a problem.”
Muir believes that Coetzee has also got it wrong by picking Cheetahs captain Francois Venter at outside centre.
“Unfortunately, a guy like Venter is also a 12. He’s a very good 12 and he’s a playmaker. He just doesn’t have the speed to be an effective 13.
“We’ve got to give this guy (Janse van Rensburg) a go. He was outstanding in the Barbarians game, and he’s done it all year round.
“He’s an unbelievable player.”
Original source: Attack the best form of defence for Boks - Muir