A stand-up captain must step forward
Adriaan Strauss is set to hang up his Bok boots at the end of the season, so his appointment as captain was a questionable one to start with. According to the hooker, he has been contemplating retirement since last year, so the fact that Strauss was entrusted with leading the Boks made very little sense. And it’s a call that Coetzee shouldn’t have made. But Strauss wasn’t only a less-than-ideal candidate because of his retirement. He also failed to set an example on the field in terms of his performances this year. Yes, he led the Cheetahs and the Bulls, so he might have seemed like a good candidate, but Coetzee now needs to think hard about who he wants to lead the Boks after Strauss. And as with most other calls he needs to make now, the 2019 World Cup should be kept mind. He doesn’t need a leader with heaps of experience or a minimum of 50 Test caps, he needs a player who shows potential in not only his leadership abilities, but who also has presence on the field. That presence applies to his on-field performances, his influence and his ability to speak up. So who does he go for? I know there are still questions about whether Warren Whiteley is Test material, but I could counter that by asking whether he is being allowed to play the kind of rangy game he is good at. All things considered, I would still back him to be my Bok captain.
Pick the right pivot
The flyhalf position, like many others, has been a problem this season. Coetzee went from Pat Lambie to Elton Jantjies to Morne Steyn and back to Lambie. What’s even more ridiculous than the number of pivots he’s had this year is how much these players differ. There’s Lambie’s cool and calm, yet strong, tactical game with a creative touch every now and then. There’s Jantjies’ off-the-cuff, attacking kind of play. And then there’s Steyn’s let me kick every bit of ball away kind of game. Yes, Steyn has won the Boks a game this season with his kicking machine ways, but he was just a quick fix. Yes, Lambie and Jantjies haven’t really impressed, but he needs to focus on them. And with Handre Pollard on his way back, Coetzee has enough first-class options to choose from.
Have some balls ...
At the start of his tenure, Coetzee said that he wanted to try a more ball-in-hand approach. But the Boks haven’t made great strides in this regard. In fact, there have been a few promising displays, but when things got tough, Coetzee’s men reverted back to one-off runners and tried to bash the opposition up front. But the confusion isn’t only evident on the field. Week-in and week-out, Coetzee has emphasised physical and set-piece dominance, their territorial game and playing in the right areas of the field. That doesn’t sound like someone who is set on changing his game. Remember when he said that you can’t score 70-metre tries in Test rugby? Well that wasn’t the only contradicting (and slightly bizarre) thing the Bok mentor has uttered when it came to his approach, whatever that is ...
Loose trio balance
This is another area that has seen a lot of change in the Bok team this year. Of course the debate of whether a team needs one player to play towards the ball or whether all 15 men should be able to win turnover ball will continue. But it’s another matter that Coetzee should pay some mind to. He has put a lot of emphasis on balancing the back row out this year, but the breakdown area has been a real cause for concern in 2016, and all the injuries that affected the back row didn’t make things any easier. The Boks have been dominated at the breakdowns in far too many encounters, and with three injuries, especially at No 6, Coetzee has had to improvise. But it also should have given him some significant direction in terms of who his first-choice loose forwards should be. And, of course, if he wants to play a specialist fetcher.
Original source: Things Bok coach must get right