Steven Kitshoff believes the Springboks will be a force at the 2019 World Cup if the core of the current group is retained. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Boks went down 24-22 in Cardiff on Saturday to end their tour and season on a low note. Afterwards, coach Allister Coetzee as well as the players took aim at the TMO’s decision not to award a try to Malcolm Marx in the first half.
There is a feeling in the Bok camp that that call cost them the game. Marx himself was adamant that the ball had been grounded and that the visitors deserved the five points at a crucial stage of the contest.
That said, there’s no getting around the fact that the Boks leaked three tries in the first half via a shocking display on defence and under the high ball.
Playing under the roof of the Millennium Stadium, and thus with no wind or rain to contend with, the likes of Ross Cronjé, Warrick Gelant and Andries Coetzee were all guilty of amateurish mistakes. To be fair to Gelant, though, he was picked on the wing and not in his preferred position of fullback.
New director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will make changes to the coaching staff in the coming weeks. Johann van Graan and Brendan Venter have already left the group, while Allister Coetzee and Matt Proudfoot are likely to take up coaching posts in Japan.
Erasmus may face a few tough calls with regards to the playing group. What the tour to the northern hemisphere proved is that Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen – senior players who play their club rugby in Europe – can add value going forward. Perhaps a few more of those veterans competing in Europe – like Frans Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis and JP Pietersen, to name a few – can be convinced to return and help restore some pride in the Bok jersey.
The Boks were handed a physical and tactical lesson in the first tour fixture against Ireland in Dublin. They were hammered at the breakdowns and beaten in the air by a smarter and better organised Irish unit.
The Bok forwards enjoyed more success over the next three games. The scrum and lineout functioned well. Kitshoff, Marx and Wilco Louw grew as a combination, while Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager were consistent contributors.
‘It was a really positive tour,’ Kitshoff said of the forward performances. ‘The boys worked hard for each other and there is a brotherhood here. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t end it on a high [with a win against Wales].
‘We need to keep working together,’ the loosehead prop added when asked about what needs to change in 2018 and beyond. ‘If we can keep developing we can become something great.
‘Continuity is key. If this team can stick together for two years things will be absolutely brilliant come the 2019 World Cup.’
Kitshoff commended the team for the character shown at the Millennium Stadium. The Boks found themselves 21-3 down after 33 minutes, but came back strongly in the latter stages.
Yet, as Kitshoff admitted, the players put themselves under pressure by conceding those early tries.
‘Being 14-0 down seven minutes into the game … it’s tough. Okes’ heads were all over the show and there was perhaps a lack of concentration.
‘I think the okes regrouped well after 30 minutes and played very well towards the end of the game. But we have some things to work on going forward.’
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