Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot maintains that the group learned a lot during an unsuccessful 2016 season and are better for those failings today. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.
Allister Coetzee has been willing to comment on almost every subject over the course of this series against France. The only topic that has been taboo has been that of the 2016 Test season, a year that witnessed eight defeats as well as the loss of a proud physical reputation.
‘2016 is done and dusted. It’s over,’ the Bok coach barked at one journalist in Durban last week. ‘Maybe you weren’t at the previous press conference when we covered this. We don’t talk about it anymore.’
Proudfoot moved to shut down this line of questioning at a press conference held in Johannesburg on Tuesday. ‘That door is closed,’ he said. ‘Sorry, but I can’t answer that question.’
When pressed, the forwards specialist revealed that the coaches and players haven’t forgotten about 2016 at all.
‘I’d say a lot of good came out of last year in the sense that no lesson is a bad lesson. Last year’s lessons were priceless and we have taken those lessons on board.
‘If we think about where we are now, we’ve created an environment where players can grow and thrive. We’ve come a long way from where we were last year.
‘I just get to wear this on my tracksuit,’ Proudfoot said, pointing at the Bok emblem. ‘The players get to wear the jersey and they know what it represents. You can see how much it means to them.’
The Boks won the first two Tests of the series against France. They will have the opportunity to add a third victory to their tally at Ellis Park.
Proudfoot commended the work done by the forwards at the scrums and collisions. The Boks will be looking to set a strong platform once again on Saturday.
‘Our philosophy is that we want to dominate up front. I know France are the same. It’s been a big challenge for us against the best scrum in the  Six Nations and I’m proud of the way the players have responded. When you have two monster packs like that engaging, there are going to be collapses. It’s not going to be squeaky clean.
‘Props are intelligent okes,’ Proudfoot continued. ‘They need to make split-second decisions before those big collisions. When I look back at the decisions they’ve made at the scrums and collisions in the first two Tests, I am very proud.’
France may opt to make changes for the third and final game. Proudfoot said that the Boks are expecting France to come at them with the same mentality regardless of who is selected to pack down in the front row.
‘I played against their assistant coach Yannick Bru when he was at Toulouse and I was at Edinburgh. I felt the wrath of a Toulouse side at the peak of its powers.
‘Whatever personnel changes they make, they will want a dominant platform.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images