Coetzee’s breakdown blues

Allister Coetzee has slammed the Springboks’ poor ball retention and high turnover rate in the wake of the draw with the Barbarians, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.

Barbarians coach Robbie Deans and captain Andy Ellis were in good spirits following the 31-31 result at Wembley on Saturday. While the composite side failed to hang on for a much-deserved win, Deans felt that his team achieved something special in meeting the Boks’ traditional physicality and winning the breakdowns.

The New Zealand-born coach, who has been at the helm of the Crusaders and the Wallabies in recent times, said that the Boks would benefit from the hit-out against the Barbarians at Wembley.

‘The Boks are always there and thereabouts. We saw that last year at the World Cup, and they’re one of the only teams who can beat the All Blacks,’ he said.

‘I don’t think they would have had a chance against England at Twickenham next week if they didn’t play this game first. They will be stronger going forward.’

Deans did concede that his side was the superior team at the breakdowns and collisions. And if one remembers how poorly the Boks have fared in these areas over the past season, one struggles to see how the fixture at Wembley would have boosted the players’ confidence ahead of a tour-defining clash with England.

‘We played expansively, but that was because we controlled the breakdown contest,’ said Deans. ‘If you fail to do that in international rugby, the tide comes in pretty quickly.’

Ellis commended his forwards for their game-shaping work in this area. The pair’s comments didn’t paint the Bok defence at the gainline in a particularly complimentary light.

‘As a scrumhalf, you want your players making metres with every carry. We got over the gainline regularly, and so I was able to get quick ball to the backs.’

Coetzee and Pat Lambie were in a more sombre mood at the post-match press conference.

‘It’s a draw, but it feels like a loss, really,’ said the Bok coach.

Coetzee lamented the 25 turnovers conceded by his side over the course of the fixture. Roelof Smit, Oupa Mohoje and Nizaam Carr were shown up as a loose-trio combination.

The Bok coach admitted that the team will be under pressure to improve in the lead-up to the next game against England. A number of players will join the squad from their respective clubs in England, France and Japan over the next few days.

Coetzee faces some tough calls in the back row. Smit is yet to play Test rugby, but is the only openside flanker on tour with the Boks at present. Mohoje may need to make way for a more physical player like Willem Alberts. Warren Whiteley will be available, but it remains to be seen if Coetzee will back the athletic No 8 ahead of someone more suited to a war in the trenches.

As one English writer remarked after the press conference: It wasn’t the scoreline at Wembley that disappointed but the quality of performance.

The Boks were outmuscled by a Barbarians side that is traditionally known for its expansive play. Reinforcements will arrive over the next few days, but some of those who featured at Wembley will still need to front against England at Twickenham.

Photo: Joel Ford/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli