Allister Coetzee: Young Boks have the right stuff
Saturday’s win over France in the first Test keeps Boks’ 11-year unbeaten streak at Loftus intact as coach lauds young team
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is not a meteorologist but he knows one spell of heavy rain is not enough to end a drought.
Saturday’s 37-14 win against France at Loftus Versfeld was Coetzee’s first since the 18-10 win against Australia at the same ground.
It kept the Boks’ 11-year unbeaten streak in Pretoria intact even though admittedly they have not played New Zealand there since 2006.
With the nightmare of 2016’s four wins from 12 matches not forgotten by South African fans, Coetzee appealed for 2016 to be banished to history, but knowing one defeat could set the cat among the pigeons.
"We’ve closed the chapter on 2016. We’ve really closed it now with a young and inexperienced side. I’ve selected the best side I can for this series and I’m really pleased with the performance. It’s about the performance and not the win because when the team plays like it did, it is a step in the right direction.
"We’re not a team playing not to lose, but we’re a team that has got the belief in the ability of playing the game in different ways. It’s baby steps in the right direction," Coetzee said.
"It is not perfect but nothing about this game is perfect. There’s a team environment that [took] shape in that week in Plettenberg Bay. The example was the last five minutes we spent in our own half after the game was won and not conceding a try. That [the team spirit] is starting to take shape and the fact bodies were put on the line was pleasing. The French played without a lot of their stars and they put us under pressure with ball in hand at stages."
The turning point came when fullback Brice Dulin was given a yellow card in the 60th minute for an early tackle on debutant Courtnall Skosan, who was in the act of trying to dot the ball down, thus gifting the Springboks a penalty try.
The Boks scored two more tries — through another debutant, Ross Cronjé, and Jan Serfontein — in Dulin’s absence to give the Boks a clean break and a deserved win.
Coetzee had been criticised for selecting the Lions players, but all seven came through for him.
The imposing Malcolm Marx was excellent even though he could do with polishing his lineout work while Franco Mostert was steady.
Halfback pairing Cronjé and Elton Jantjies continued from where they left off in Super Rugby with the latter finally looking the part in a Springbok jersey. Captain Warren Whiteley put in a reasonable shift while Skosan and Andries Coetzee did not disappoint.
Winger Raymond Rhule distinguished himself marking Virimi Vakatawa on a busy defensive night.
"The try we conceded when we were leading 16-7 was crucial. We were up at the time and it was [caused by] the bounce of the ball.
"The penalty try was a result of unpredictable play, but the awareness of players who wanted to score tries was good," Coetzee said. "The impact of the bench and the debutants was unbelievable," he added.