Allister Coetzee will be looking for ‘energy and intensity’ from his new-look Springbok side against France in Saturday’s season-opener.
Last year, the Boks lost eight games out of 12. Enough has been said and written about that. It’s the reason why Coetzee has said this Saturday’s encounter represents an opportunity for ‘new beginnings’.
Indeed, that has also been reflected in his selections that have been heavily weighted towards form (read Lions players) and combinations.
However, it’s also led to a selection of youth and inexperience, with the Bok starting lineup boasting just 265 Test caps, while there are a mere 54 caps in the backline.
It stands quite in contrast to Coetzee’s first selection of last year, when the starting lineup reflected 474 Test caps of experience for the opening Test against Ireland, but featured only two in-form Lions players.
It points towards what Coetzee hopes will represent a reversal of fortunes in 2017, but it will still be very interesting to see what style of play the Boks look to embrace this year.
Whereas the Boks often appeared to be caught between styles last year, Coetzee has insisted that there will be greater clarity and cohesion in the way they go about their business this season.
‘It’s a new beginning in terms of everything,’ he said at Thursday’s team announcement. ‘We have a vibrant group of young players, and there will be some mistakes when there is inexperience and the odd new combination, but the way we’ve trained, that’s what I want to see them take on to the field. We’re not living in fool’s paradise, we know there will be times when things don’t go our way, but I want to see the players bringing that energy and intensity.’
Although some might look at the selection of seven Lions players in the starting lineup as an indication that the Boks may be set to embrace a more attack-minded approach, the reality is that it’s sure to be a high-percentage approach on Saturday.
‘It’s Test match rugby, and we have to follow our processes,’ Coetzee said. ‘We’ll be playing against quality opposition, who will be on top at times. But we have to know how to respond in those times, and that’s the detail we’ve touched on in training.
‘What one must understand is that I’ve also looked at picking good decision-makers’, Coetzee added. ‘You need to have calm heads, and guys who understand their roles and responsibilities. It will be important for them to take responsibility when times are tough.’
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