There was a distinct lack of energy from the South Africans in Saturday’s 37-21 defeat to England at Twickenham, where a limited Bok outfit were outsmarted by Eddie Jones’ side on attack and defence.
Coetzee’s heavy pack were kept in check by England, while their backs showed much more creativity in unlocking an admittedly shaky Bok defence.
Before the match, the coach was steadfast in his belief that in the absence of specialist openside flanks such as Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel and Marcell Coetzee, picking Willem Alberts at No 6 and a lock in Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside was the way to go, while he again opted for Damian de Allende at inside centre and Willie le Roux at fullback despite both players battling for form throughout 2016.
Wing JP Pietersen also made a number of mistakes, and he must be under pressure to hold on to his starting spot after a dropped high ball led to a try for England.
“Well, obviously we’ll look at Italy and see the challenge that they pose, and prepare accordingly. There will be a few changes in the team obviously, and hopefully that is the sort of energy we need in the team,” Coetzee said after the England Test.
Bryan Habana should be over the knee injury that saw him miss out at Twickenham, and his return would be welcome, but Coetzee has mentioned that he wants to give someone like Jamba Ulengo an opportunity on this tour, so the Bulls flyer could make his debut in Florence.
If that happens, Ruan Combrinck could well be an attractive option at fullback, with Le Roux continuing to make the same errors that saw him lose his place in the team following the Ireland series in June.
Lions trio Elton Jantjies, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lionel Mapoe could also pep up a misfiring backline, and Nizaam Carr would help in slowing the opposition ball down, but Coetzee is unlikely to make wholesale changes.
Apart from Habana’s fitness, lock Eben Etzebeth - who left the field after a clash with Billy Vunipola - may be an injury concern for the Italy Test following a blow to the head. Etzebeth was tested for concussion and didn’t return to action.
Coetzee made mention of the two late consolation tries by Johan Goosen and Le Roux as a positive going forward, and felt that it was the individual errors more than the overall game plan that was the major issue against England.
“It’s hurting, obviously. It is tough times. But when I look at the team, and the team doesn’t give up, and show towards the end that they keep fighting, I draw comfort from that,” Coetzee said.
“I know we do become our own worst enemy when we make a lot of individual mistakes, and when we don’t handle the aerial or contestables well. And that led to points against us at a crucial stage before halftime.
With a win record of just four out of 10 Tests, Coetzee is under pressure to deliver victories over Italy and Wales to end the year with a 50 percent status. He was again asked about whether the Boks have lost their aura, but the coach felt that his team kept fighting at Twickenham.
“Like I’ve said, I look at when a team gives up, then they’ve lost their aura. But this was a team that was prepared,” Coetzee said.
Original source: Bok coach unlikely to make wholesale changes