Allister Coetzee believes the Springboks have much to rectify in the buildup to their next match against Argentina in Salta, reports JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit.
The Boks fired late to win their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday. Trailing by 10 points after 68 minutes, the hosts hit back to clinch a narrow 30-23 victory.
Coetzee’s Boks have now won three Tests in succession. In fact, a closer analysis will reveal that South Africa won those three games in dramatic, but unconvincing, fashion.
If not for a late linebreak by Damian de Allende in the second Test against Ireland in Johannesburg, the Boks would have lost. If not for a couple of crucial defensive plays in the dying stages of the third Test in Port Elizabeth, the Boks would have lost. And if not for a last-gasp try against Argentina in Nelspruit, the Boks would have lost.
As expected, Coetzee commended the Boks’ character in the wake of the most recent win against the Pumas. At the same time, he admitted to experiencing a sense of déjà vu.
‘We can’t keep relying on our resolve to pull us through,’ the Bok coach said. ‘I was pleased with the way we started this match, but then we let it slip in the 20 minutes before and after half-time.
‘We had our opportunities in the first half. Bryan Habana broke down the left and then tried to offload to Eben Etzebeth [a poor decision which resulted in a knock-on]. Lionel Mapoe broke the line and then lost the ball over the tryline.
'We didn’t take those chances as well as the opportunity to build scoreboard pressure, and then small errors started to creep into our game.’
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said that his charges were ‘angry’ with their own performance in the dying stages. The Pumas were so close to recording their second Test win in South Africa.
When pushed to assess the Pumas’ overall showing, Hourcade said that his side put a lot of pressure on the Boks. He believes Argentina are well placed ahead of the next match-up in Salta next Saturday.
Coetzee conceded that his Bok side is a work in progress. They have much to rectify in the coming week, and ahead of the matches against Australia and New Zealand.
‘I’m very happy with how we played in the first 20 minutes and in the last 15 minutes, and I’d like to see more of that. Overall, I’d say the decision-making of when to run and when to kick is not there yet. We need to develop a killer instinct and take all of our opportunities,’ he said.
The defence should also be a concern ahead of the next match in Salta. The Boks defensive line was breached too easily at the Mbombela Stadium.
‘There were a few issues with our height in the tackle,' said Coetzee. 'We went too high and often gave away too many yards as a result.
'They exploited us down the short side on more than one occasion. Look, we have a new defence coach [in Chean Roux] and it will take time for the players to settle into the new system.
‘Argentina have evolved a great deal since 2015. They also surprised us with the way they played. They launched a number of contestable kicks and put us under pressure. We must learn from that.’
Hourcade said that the Boks could be in for a few more surprises when they tour Argentina next week.
‘We made a lot of breaks, and are disappointed that we didn’t make more of them count,’ the Pumas coach said.
‘No doubt the South Africans will analyse where they went wrong on defence and correct their flaws. That said, we will be looking to bring in more attacking options and could surprise them again in Salta.’
Photo: AFP Photo