Some will reflect on the last 12 months for the Springboks, as a year in crisis. And yes, it was a dark hour, but head coach Allister Coetzee is looking ahead. Displaying new self belief in South African rugby, after the success of the Lions in Super Rugby and the winning start for his team.
This weekend, they will face their biggest test of 2017. Against New Zealand, in The Rugby Championship. That is the litmus test which by all International rugby teams are measured. Do well in Albany, and that self belief will likely ‘sky rocket’.
Displaying New Self Belief in South African Rugby
Coetzee was a man under pressure in 2016. By all accounts, it was a dark hour in Springbok history. Last Word on Rugby department head Ryan Jordan lamented the Sad Springboks after the disastrous result against Italy, in November.
Labelled then with ‘Unimaginative attacking play’ and even a ‘Confused Coaching team’ it was as hard to read, as it was for Jordan to write. The questions being asked then included ‘has Allister Coetzee lost the support of the Springboks dressing room?’
Since November, much has changed. For one, the side have a smile on their face. A crucial part of sport, and in life. The harmony in the team has been restored. A new team ethos is I-care. The ‘I’ standing for integrity, and the that players care about their input into the team now; and in it’s legacy.
True, South African rugby must be respected, but for it’s deeds on the field–not just it’s history or potential.
2018 Schedule See’s England Tour South Africa
With the challenge facing them in The Rugby Championship, South African rugby is building towards the near future. In November they head to the Northern Hemisphere–wanting to repair the damage from the 2016 loss to Italy.
And then in the New Year, the recently announced June fixtures against England are a suitable goal for the current Springboks. Facing the World Champions, Australia and Argentina consistently, is a good annual measure. But with England in ‘hot form’ this announcement is to the benefit of Allister Coetzee and his group.
That will be a delicious series – but to the here and now. And potentially this weekend, they have the ‘carrot’ of the Rugby Championship title dangling in front of them. Beat the All Blacks, and restore the pride back into the green jersey. It will put them on the same, or possibly one point in front of the New Zealand team, heading toward the final two home games.
Show a determined effort, even display the adventurous style of the Emirates Lions Super Rugby side, and their fans back home will be delighted.
How Has the Tide Turned for Springboks?
After six test matches, the side is unbeaten. That is a base to work from, as leaving 2016 behind them was the best step psychologically. Putting it to bed, but learning from the mistakes made.
“You learn from every single test match but 2017 is about a new start for us.”
Those are the words of assistant coach Johann van Graan, and the steps made have all been positive.
The South African Rugby Union executive committee will have grilled Coetzee and his assistant coaches after 2016. The entire group will have had to show reason why they should be retained. And even if many wanted ‘blood on the floor’ Coetzee has the confidence of the administration. Step one complete.
He then needed to secure the confidence of the players. Former captain Adrian Strauss has retired, and in June Warren Whiteley led the team in a three-test series with France. That was secured; if not always convincingly, but it showed the ‘tide had turned’ for South Africa rugby.
Today, the Stormers Eben Etzbeth is the captain, and the side is dreaming big again. A run of victories will develop the required self belief that Coetzee and his group must inspire, if they are to win the four-nation quadrangular series for the first time since 2009.
A grand final Super Rugby performance from the Lions was also the best medicine to repair some of the damage that had happened in the recent history. Their brand of rugby differed to the national side; as it does, but it showed how players can express themselves.
Now those same men and others from the African conference groups, all have an opportunity to put things right. And New Zealand have been a constant adversary. Often taking advantage of inaccuracies; as they did so well in Christchurch, 2016.
Springboks Must Ensure Accuracy in Albany
Assistant coach Johann van Graan said on Monday that the side are looking forward to the challenge. Progress has been made over the French tests, and the convincing twin victories over Argentina. Aside from the drawn match with Australia, the ball has been squarely in favour of South Africa rugby.
In terms of the game plan, it must a relentless effort to wrestle control away from the home side. Using the forward power is fundamental, but also utilizing strengths out wide. That will mean all elements come together–something that has not occurred for the tourists in eight years of trying.
“We haven’t really spoken about the past too much. I’ve been here a few times before. The last game in Auckland (a 29-13 defeat in 2013) brings back a few memories and we got really close in 2014.”
Displaying new self belief is the key tactic required on Saturday. “There is a few different dynamics within the team. With younger guys you get a lot of excitement, a bit more humour, a bit more music. This is a different team for a different year,” was the positive message that van Graan told Fairfax Media.
None doubt that Etzebeth, Siya Kilosi, Malcolm Marx, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel and Courtnall Skosan will all put their best foot forward on Saturday.
Note: Game breaker Jaco Kriel has been ruled out of the match, due to a shoulder injury.
South Africa Squad Named for NZLvRSA
SPRINGBOKS: Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Uzair Cassiem, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth (c), Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira.
Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit , Francois Hougaard, Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende.
New Zealand v South Africa, 7:35pm (NZT) QBE Stadium, Albany
“Main photo credit”
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