Jon Cardinelli

Boks face mental hurdle

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee Springbok coach Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee admits that it will be tough to pick the Springboks up following their record-breaking loss to Ireland. JON CARDINELLI in Paris reports.

The Boks conceded four tries and 38 points in the recent defeat to Ireland. The attack was just as poor when one considers that the visitors finished the contest with three points.

In the immediate aftermath, Coetzee took aim at the players. He admitted that there wasn’t a lot the Boks could change in the lead-up to their second tour match against France.

The Boks enjoyed a great week in Dublin as far as preparation was concerned. On game day, however, the forwards failed to match the opposition for physicality while the backs took some atrocious options with ball in hand.

In short, the Boks failed the physical and mental tests in Dublin. As a result, they will head into the next clash against France short on confidence.

The big question now is whether the coaching staff and indeed the senior players – Duane Vermeulen has been brought in to bolster the side – can deliver a galvanising response.

‘We were faced with a similar situation after losing 57-0 to the All Blacks,’ said Coetzee. ‘Each and every one of the players has to take responsibility.

‘When we got together [after arriving in Paris] to talk about the game against Ireland, you could see the players were hurting. It’s never easy when you disappoint your teammates and your country like that, especially in a Springbok jersey.

‘We’ve got to put that behind us now,’ Coetzee continued. ‘We’ve got a good plan and it’s something the players are looking forward to.

‘Of course, we will have to get excited about how we train this week. We will have to be smart about how we train. It’s going to be a massive physical battle against France, so we will have to make sure the players are fresh and well recovered.’

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Siya Kolisi sat out of the training session on Monday. Vermeulen only joined the squad from Toulon later in the evening. What this means is that two out of three of the likely starting back row did not feature at practice.

Coetzee maintains that the challenge will be more mental than physical in the lead-up to the Test against France.

‘There’s got to be a clear distinction between the emotional and the factual when looking at what went wrong in the game against Ireland. The game ended 38-3, but for 46 minutes the scoreline was 3-3 in the sense that we kicked three points and so did they. We were in with a chance to win the game until the 71st minute.

‘This is actually a very good South Africa side,’ he added. Under Coetzee, though, the Boks have won just nine of their 22 Tests, a record that includes just one victory away from home.

The pressure is building on a side that hasn’t won a Test since August. The coach, however, still feels that the group will gain something from the recent experiences and be better for them in future.

Coetzee has called for a sharper and more composed tactical showing, especially by his chief decision makers at No 9 and 10. It remains to be seen whether he will stick with Elton Jantjies after the flyhalf had a poor game in Dublin.

‘I know there are a lot of questions around at the moment. Were we flat-footed? Did we lack intensity? The crux of the matter was what we were ill-disciplined.

‘We didn’t realise that penalties can hurt. Three points in the northern hemisphere is a massive event. So we have to make sure our discipline is intact this week. We’ve got to have patience.

‘We also have to be better at scrum-time because the French are a big threat there. Our execution has to be better. That’s what went wrong. To say there was a lack of effort against Ireland is just not true.'

Photo: Steve Haag Sports

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