Allister Coetzee believes the Springboks showed their physical and mental worth in the second half of the Test against Ireland at Ellis Park. JON CARDINELLI reports from Johannesburg.
The Boks beat Ireland 32-26 on Saturday to level the three-Test series. Afterwards, Coezee and Adriaan Strauss admitted that they were relieved as well as elated. The new coach and captain now have a win next to their names.
Indeed, at half-time on Saturday, the Boks looked to be staring down the barrel of a series defeat. The hosts produced a limp and rudderless display in the first 40 minutes. When they left the field, they were viciously booed by an unimpressed Ellis Park crowd.
The Boks bounced back in the second half to outscore Ireland 29-7. It was during the second stanza that the Ellis Park crowd responded positively to the improved performance, and began to show their support.
‘Maybe the reaction wasn’t that positive at half-time,’ said Strauss. ‘However, what I will remember from this match is the way the crowd got behind us in the second half. As we began to build momentum, they got behind us. At one stage, I couldn’t hear my teammates at a lineout because of the noise.’
Coetzee said that it wouldn’t have done the Boks any good to pay attention to the booing at half-time. While the Bok coach admitted that the performance in the first half was very poor, he always believed that his team could turn things around in the second stanza.
‘We take no notice of things like booing or what is happening outside. What was more important is the message that was relayed at half-time,’ said Coetzee. ‘I mentioned specific names. I told them what they were doing wrong and what needed to be fixed.
‘We are a team, and we have values. Resilience is one of our core values. I said from the outset that we needed to be more resilient than the Irish to win.
‘And to see the guys getting it right at the end, to come back the way they did was very satisfying. It was also good to see the guys responding to what I said at half-time, not to me personally but through their performances in the second half.’
Coetzee lamented the recklessness and inaccuracy of the team in the first half. He put this down to inexperience, and the fact that the team hasn’t had much time together.
‘There was a lack of discipline. It’s not that certain players don’t understand the laws, it’s more a case of over-exuberance and inexperience.
'We were conceding penalties and that was disrupting our momentum. It’s not that we didn’t have the skill, it was more a case of us not getting any rhythm going.
‘I felt that our ball-carrying was a lot better in the second half. Tactically, we also improved as the game progressed. It seemed that we made too many errors in the first half, especially under the high ball. That aspect of the game also improved later on.’
Coetzee reiterated that there wasn’t a change of plan in the second half, but rather an improvement in execution.
‘Again, it didn’t matter that there was booing at half-time,’ he said. ‘Even at 19-3 behind, we knew there was still another half to play and that we needed to stick to our guns. We went out and did that, and I would say that this win signifies a little building block falling into place.
‘There’s a lot of expectancy with regard to the game plan,’ Coetzee continued. ‘There’s also the transformation issue and challenge, and the fact that I must win. I think this game showed that we can do it all as South Africans together.
‘We’ve put one building block in place. The battle is won, but the war is not over. If we get another win next week and win the series, then and only then we can start looking forward to the Rugby Championship.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images