The Springboks produced a rousing physical performance to hammer France 37-15 at Kings Park on Saturday, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-test series. The victory may well have saved coach Allister Coetzee’s job after the team’s disastrous performances in 2016.
After the game Coetzee, and Bok captain Warren Whiteley, spoke about the team’s remarkable progress in the space of a few short weeks.
The Boks scored 74 points and eight tries in the first two tests against France. The biggest improvement, said Coetzee, has been the attitude and accuracy shown on defence. The introduction of defence guru Brendan Venter has made all the difference in this department.
The Boks took some time to find their feet in the opening game of the series at Loftus Versfeld. In the second test at Kings Park, however, the hosts dominated the set-piece and gainline battles, which was no small feat given that France had welcomed back several first-choice players. Flankers Siya Kolisi and Jean-Luc du Preez, as well as inside centre Jan Serfontein, were immense for the hosts at the breakdowns. The pressure generated by the Boks in these areas forced France to play most of the contest behind the gainline.
Whiteley said the performance at Kings Park shows the Boks are on the right track but added that the team hadn’t achieved anything special as yet.
When one reflects on their 2016 win record — 33%, the worst return by a Bok side in the professional era — as well as Coetzee’s record of six wins in 14 tests, one understands why this team isn’t getting too carried away by the series victory. It needs to be remembered that the Tricolors are coming off a long season in Europe — and they are not presently among the top five test sides, according to world rankings.
France coach Guy Novès says his team will be playing for pride in the final game of the series at Ellis Park this Saturday. It’s a brave statement, but it remains to be seen if the French players, who are now one game away from the end of their season, will have the appetite for another bruising battle.
The Boks should be looking to record their third straight victory and take some momentum into the Rugby Championship. They should know that the All Blacks, and perhaps even the struggling Wallabies, will demand more of them in that tournament.
SA have not won a test against New Zealand since 2014, and have not won a test in Australasia since 2013. Coetzee’s side has made progress over the past few weeks, but a lot still needs to happen before they can be talked up as contenders to win those specific matches.