It’ been a desperately disappointing year for the Springboks, with only four wins out of eleven, with Wales still to come. Where did it all go wrong? Here, Wynona Louw and Ian Smit of the Cape Times, look for some possible answers.
Late was his hour ...
Allister Coetzee was inaugurated just two months before the Springboks’ first Test of the season against Ireland and, needless to say, there wasn’t nearly enough time to prepare mentally or physically, not only for the Test at Newlands (and we all know how that ended), but for the season as a whole. The announcement of Heyneke Meyer’s successor was a drawn-out process by Saru and, as with all things in life, preparation is key (or it is one of those key things). At least if Allister had more time to do some half-decent prep, we all might have been spared some of the unfortunate situations he has ended up in.
What’s with the support?
Coetzee’s selected coaching staff puzzled many, and it’s clear to see why. One of the main targets of public rant has been Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick. Is this justified? It’s hard to say. Stick was a wonderful Sevens player, but unfortunately we can’t swop one talent for another, and on the surface his coaching gig with the Boks hasn’t exactly proved to be as effective as his playing abilities. He was appointed backline coach at the highest level after being assistant coach of the poorest rugby union in the country (the Kings), and leading the Vodacom Cup team for two years. Oh, and he was also assistant coach of the EP Kings Under-21 side before taking charge of the U19 team. Then there was also defence guy Chean Roux. The Boks have struggled in that area this year - in the Rugby Championship they conceded 22 tries in six matches, as well as nine in their final Championship match against the All Blacks in Durban. He has since been relieved of his duties, and Lions defence specialist JP Ferreira has taken over the defensive reins. Perhaps there should have been more thought put into these appointments. Maybe if Coetzee had had more time.
Injuries and foreign clubs that hurt
There has been a lot of these, especially injuries. But Coetzee has also had to deal with limited options due to players contracted by oversees clubs. There was the very obvious, and important, loose trio conundrum, as specialist openside flankers Francois Louw and Jaco Kriel had both been struck down by injury. But luckily Bulls youngster Roelof Smit was there to offer some relief at No 6 against the Barbarians. That relief was short-lived, however, as the injury cloud moved on to Smit - leaving the Boks without a specialist No 6. But by this European tour, the the Boks should have been used to short-lived relief after their last-minute wins over Ireland earlier this year. Just saying.
Daft player selection
This one was a real pain, because it was the one thing that was controllable, yet Coetzee failed to take control. Miserably. He continuously emphasised ‘continuity’ and said that he wanted to give players a chance to ‘redeem themselves’. Judging by how many chances they got, he is a very understanding guy. And it’s not like Coetzee didn’t have options. Look at the Boks’ midfield woes. There was a solution in Rohan Janse van Rensburg, yet he keeps being excluded. And he wasn’t the only one. Think of Jean-Luc du Preez, Uzair Cassiem, Jamba Ulengo, Sergeal Petersen, Kriel, and others. There’s an exciting talent down Durban way called Curwin Bosch. But hey, what’s done is done, right?
The English word is stubborn, but it doesn’t quite convey the same feeling as the Afrikaans translation. The trend in modern rugby is to utilise the skill of all 15 players, and to play the game at high speed. Forget the standard bearers, like New Zealand and Australia, who have played that way for years. Argentina have seen the light since Graham Henry cracked the whip there, the Irish are playing with a lovely sense of pace and freedom. Yes, Eddie Jones has put some teeth back in the English bulldog, but he is also at heart a creative coach. Why then is Allister simply refusing to acknowledge the trend, while banging on about a territory game? Allister was a marvellous Saru scrumhalf in his day in an Eastern Province team who played lovely, running rugby, so that makes it even stranger. So, back we go to that word: hardkoppig ...
Original source: Five reasons for the Boks’ miserable year