Allister Coetzee maintains that the Springboks are in a good mental space in spite of the record defeat to Ireland and South Africa’s loss in the 2023 World Cup bid race. JON CARDINELLI in Paris reports.
Could it have gone any worse for the Boks or South African rugby over the past five days?
First the Boks lost to Ireland by a record margin in Dublin on Saturday. Then France was unveiled as the host nation for the 2023 World Cup on Wednesday, despite South Africa heading into the final stage of the process as World Rugby’s preferred candidate.
France head into the clash with the Boks at the Stade de France with their tails up. A win against the Boks – who won 3-0 in the series played between the two nations earlier this year – would cap a great week for the French.
A loss would be another blow for the punch-drunk Boks. Speaking from the team hotel on Thursday, coach Allister Coetzee and captain Eben Etzebeth said that the recent result in London would have no bearing on the coming clash in Paris. Their words lacked conviction, though. One could see that the pressure is starting to take the toll on both men and that they are wary of another defeat this Saturday.
Coetzee did admit, however, that the outcome was a setback for the Boks and South African rugby in a broader context.
‘Losing the bid is not ideal for a country like South Africa,’ the Bok coach said. ‘The opportunity to have that would have been massive.
‘For us as a team we will focus on the Test this weekend, though. That bid result won’t motivate us any differently. We are more concerned with implementing our plan. That’s our job. We need to play well to beat an improved French team. Both teams will be desperate to get a result.’
On Wednesday, CEO Jurie Roux said that the decision would force a rethink to SA Rugby’s strategy to keep players in South Africa. At this stage, there are some 300-odd South Africans playing club rugby in Europe.
‘When you host a World Cup, there is an aspiration platform,’ Roux said. ‘On top of that is a financial platform that creates enough revenue that can further your development plans. Maybe stem the outflow of players [leaving South Africa] in search of the euro, pound, yen, and soon the dollar.
‘We will now have to face things in a different way after this result,’ he added. ‘Luckily we do have the British & Irish Lions tour soon in . Hopefully that will create some new avenues and some revenues.’
Coetzee conceded that SA Rugby could be in for even tougher times in future.
‘We are looking at ways to keep our best players in the country,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of other things that will be put in place. It’s not easy. It’s tough competing against euros, pounds, yen and dollars. For now the team environment is really good and hopefully that will help the cause.’
Meanwhile, the players are refusing to the let the disappointment of losing the bid distract them from the task at hand.
‘We want to say congratulations to the French,’ said Bok wing Courtnall Skosan. ‘At the end of the day we have a job to do this weekend. It’s another big challenge for us. Hopefully we can go out there and make our nation proud.’
Photo: Gabrielle Maltinti/Getty Images