Allister Coetzee believes the Boks will need to improve by at least 50% if they are to beat Ireland at Ellis Park this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Boks suffered their first-ever defeat to Ireland in South Africa, and Coetzee conceded in the aftermath that there was simply no excuses for an unacceptably poor performance.
However, he also reiterated that they needed to 'take the defeat on the chin' and come back far stronger and much improved against Ireland this weekend. Indeed, another loss would amount to nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, and Coetzee and the Boks will know that they’ve put themselves in a situation where the pressure will be exacerbated this week.
The one thing in their favour is the fact that a number of players experienced a similar situation after suffering shock losses to Argentina in Durban last year and to Japan in the first game of the 2015 World Cup. On both those occasions, the Boks responded superbly, subsequently beating the Pumas in Buenos Aires, while advancing to the semi-finals of the World Cup where they only narrowly lost to the All Blacks.
Coetzee was asked whether those defeats, now coupled with an unexpected loss to Ireland, were serving to continue diminishing the aura of Bok rugby, but the Bok coach refuted such a suggestion.
‘What we’ve seen is that the northern hemisphere teams have really caught up to the rest of world rugby. The Welsh were leading against the All Blacks, and England put up a brilliant performance to defeat Australia, and the Irish beat us with 14 men … We know exactly where we went wrong [on Saturday], and we will address the tactical and technical problems on Monday and fix it. We did create opportunities, but ultimately, this is now our first attempt at learning and we have to learn very quickly as a group.’
Despite Saturday’s defeat, Coetzee emphasised that he wouldn’t be pressing any panic buttons by making wholesale changes to the team.
‘I’m pleased with the substitutes that made a difference, but I always think you need to afford players the opportunity to redeem themselves. They’re all very disappointed and they want the chance to fix it, and they will be given that. There’s no reason to panic, we just have to get it right. We know we didn’t just disappoint ourselves, but the whole of South Africa too because we had all the backing and support. That carries an extra load, but it can also inspire us to get things back on track.’
Coetzee acknowledged that the Boks’ best simply wasn’t good enough on the day at Newlands, but refused to question the players’ commitment.
‘I can’t fault the effort because I don’t believe the players will ever run onto the field and not pitch up for a Test and give everything they have. But the errors in terms of execution just weren’t good enough for a Springbok team, and they’re well aware of that. The Irish were better on the day, we have to live with it and get things right. There are two more Tests in the series … and although there were some positives, we have to step up by 50, 60% this week.’
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said they certainly expected to face a Bok backlash at Ellis Park.
‘When a Bok team doesn’t perform as the public demands, and with the pride they have in a jersey, there is always going to be a big response. When they lost to Argentina [in South Africa] last year, they then went over there and won, and they also rebounded after the loss to Japan in the World Cup. Their pride and another week together will encourage them to bounce back.’
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images