Saturday 17 March 2018

Coetzee claims his Springboks side still have plenty of bounce

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is going out of his way to talk up his side ahead of tomorrow's Test with Ireland. The weather? They love it. He hasn't seen so much sunshine in this country since he doesn't know when.

And the training facility in Donnybrook? First class, so it is. Moreover, his men are not even feeling a bit of wear and tear despite heading into the first of a four-match tour - an exercise that will close the show on a year where currently they have had five wins from nine games.

"We can't come every year at the end of the year and say: 'End-of-year tour - we're tired.' That phrase already makes you feel tired.

"So we're looking at another opportunity to grow as a team, in different conditions, obviously. We can't come here with the Sanzar mindset, the southern hemisphere mindset, and try and be as effective. We've spoken about that whole thing."

Coetzee was speaking at yesterday's team announcement where each of the three changes from last month's one-point defeat by New Zealand in Cape Town will strengthen their hand.

Props Tendai Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen, as well as inside centre Damian de Allende, will give the 'Boks extra backbone. Which they will need.

Certainly, they are on an upward curve, with draws against the Wallabies and that close pursuit of the All Blacks - the horror stat was the 57 points they conceded to New Zealand on the away leg.

On top of five in a row, spread across the home series with France and the Rugby Championship games with the Pumas, it put some distance between the 'Boks and the awfulness of 2016.

So for Coetzee, whose future depends on a decent return from this tour, it's all about keeping going and adding to the experience bank for a side that will have no debutants tomorrow, but are still light enough on experience.

"The way we train has really improved our fitness levels. That's why the continuity aspect is so important. The mindset is that this is another tour for us to improve as a group and get better as a group.

"There has been a fundamental shift coming from the S&C guys.

"For the national team we needed to identify and tell the franchises this is what we want; this is what it takes to be effective at international rugby.

"You can't play Test match rugby if you're not anaerobically and aerobically fit, and strong and powerful."

Coetzee says their training camps during the season allowed them to get an accurate handle on what each player needed - hardly revolutionary you would have thought - and that it will allow him to hand the players back in as good nick as he got them.

As for the scale of their climb tomorrow, he was quick to point out that Ireland are ahead of South Africa in the world rankings (4th versus 5th, with very little between them), but less forthcoming on what debutant Bundee Aki might offer for the home side.

"He's done well for Connacht," Coetzee said.

"I'm not sure. I haven't had a long look at him. It's his first (Test) start. He's a quality player and I remember when he played for the Chiefs - he's quite a big, explosive player. We'll make sure our defence is solid."

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