Search for Bok identity continues

Jon Cardinelli

The message coming out of the Springbok camp is once again as clear mud.

Two weeks ago, a defiant Allister Coetzee told everyone who would listen that one bad result – or more specifically the worst result in Springbok history – would not define this team.

No need to panic, Coetzee said. The Boks played well in the preceding six Tests. Neither the plan nor the selections were at fault in the Albany aberration. The bounce of the ball didn’t go South Africa’s way. Any team can leak eight tries and 57 points in those circumstances. Right?

At least that’s what Coetzee told us at the time. We shook our heads, lamented the state of South African rugby, and then resigned ourselves to the fact that the Boks would press on with their flawed approach for the foreseeable future.

Earlier this week, Coetzee spoke about the team’s ‘turnaround strategy’ ahead of the home Tests against Australia and New Zealand. After all that talk about sticking to a plan that worked against France, Argentina, and to lesser extent against Australia in Perth, the Boks look set to make another tactical shift.

Coetzee contradicted himself on almost a daily basis in 2016. Those mixed messages were reflected in the way the players performed over the course of a season that witnessed eight defeats in 12 Tests.

The decisions taken by the Bok coach these past two weeks, and indeed the comments made by Coetzee in the media, suggest that this Bok group is still searching for an identity more than nine months into the new season.

The management of Francois Hougaard makes no sense. The player has alternated between wing and scrumhalf over the course of his career. Last year, Coetzee used Hougaard four times on the wing. This season, Coetzee made it clear that Hougaard would focus on scrumhalf.

Hougaard’s struggles in that position are well documented. His technical limitations were certainly exposed when the Boks toured the northern hemisphere in 2014. Coetzee should have known about the player’s shortcomings before he selected him in this position in 2017.

Do the Boks need overseas-based players? Or is everyone still swallowing the lie that an all-local side is lekker?

Bath-based Francois Louw has been brought in to bolster the forwards in the lead-up to the next Test in Bloemfontein. Meanwhile, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen and other accomplished Test veterans continue to be ignored.

It’s equally hard to see where Coetzee stands with regards to the future of his back three.

S’bu Nkosi, an outside back with the size and skills to be a force at this level, received a national call-up, but has since been released to play Currie Cup, while Raymond Rhule – who missed nine tackles against the All Blacks – was defended, and then dropped.

At the same time, Coetzee has retained several backline players – Courtnall Skosan and Andries Coetzee to name a few – who are patently out of their depth.

Ruan Combrinck continues to be overlooked by Coetzee. Flyhalf Handré Pollard was rushed back into the Bok squad earlier this year despite a lack of game time. Combrinck, who played for the SA A side against the French Barbarians this June, and then for the Lions in the Super Rugby playoffs, still hasn’t played enough top-flight rugby to be considered for the Boks. Try and work that one out.

What can we expect from the Boks when they front the Wallabies and All Blacks over the next two weeks? It’s hard to say.

According to Coetzee, the group has learned from its poor performance in Albany, a statement that is at odds with his squad selections.

- Jon Cardinelli

Let's chat

  • Lions Fan '82

    For sure, AC has got us all scratching our heads. Can’t understand why he had to wait more than a week before letting Rhule go to the Cheetahs. Could have done it last week this time and the Cheetahs would have enjoyed more time with him.
    Nkosi also released….WTF? He was just brought into the bok camp for a few days. A few days straight after a unforgettable 57-0, what vibe was there in the Bok camp that he was supposed to feed off?
    So, the question still remains….who starts on the wings on Saturday? Probably Skosan and then you can just draw a name out of a hat and start him. Names in the hat would be Leyds, Jessie Kriel, De Allende, maybe even throw Rudy Paige and Pollard in there. AC’s plan is anyway to get us scratching our heads isn’t it?
    You’d think Leyds is the obvious choice as he is the only wing left in the squad. But he does not really make up in the defence department where Rhule was lacking. Aus back-3 are massive hard-running attackers and they would have taken notes last week, we’ll be tested out wide, over and over again. Leyds will have a hard day at the office for sure.
    Lets wait and see, as the head scratching continues

  • Lions Fan '82

    O, and no 8th man in the squad either. Dan Du Preeze also released. It’s a very specialised position, surely we have to have enough talent to choose from in that position rather than have to play a flank out of his comfort zone. Especially a flank with only a hand full of tests under his belt.

    Is it that hard to pick a squad???

  • Greg

    He simply doesn’t know what he is doing. He is certainly out of his depth.
    The sooner he goes, the better. We are going nowhere with him.

  • nick

    i totally agree with that statement. all they did was play weaker teams

  • Chris Mouton

    This coach is useless. I’m done with giving him the benefit of the doubt, which I did when he was first selected.

  • Lions Fan '82

    All the selectors should be held accountable. In the areas where serious attention was needed, we now sit in a weaker possition than before the NZ game. We only have two wings in the squad to choose from, one was called up and two released. Can you please explain??
    At 8th man, same thing. We now sit without one in the squad. Dan du Preeze released, and even with him there we had only him, one uncapped youngster. How can that not have been a concern for the selectors??
    Get Dan or Phillip v d Walt, or any real 8th man on the park for the 1st 40 and see how he goes, Cassiem can get the next 40 if things dont go well. You’re also doing Cassiem a huge injustice by playing him out of possition and then he has to take so much criticism for not being up to standard when his opposite number is probably one of the best rugby players on the planet for the last 4 to 5 years, and definitely the best 8th man in the world. You’de get much more out of him if you play him at flank

  • Lions Fan '82

    I’m so sick of just complaining all the time, but it grates my nuts. Cannot F….ING understand it!?!? This isn’t some mickey mouse school team, this is our countrys’ pride and joy! We live for Springbok Test match rugby!!
    How can it be miss managed like this?? The selectors have a job to do, and they have clearly not done it. In any business you could probably get fired straight away for “gross negligence.”

    • Stumps

      Its done. Once proud and feared by the best; now competing at club level and will continue to do so, hoping for a win against Italy, Georgia, etc. Move on. Its dead.

  • Rocks46

    This is the rugby team that represents South Africa, world champions……the coach is not up to it. In Europe he would have been binned by now. Ten/fifteen years ago he would have been binned by now! We need to get our pride back. How? I wish I had a crystal ball, but something has to happen quickly!

  • RICHARD

    No scrummie!! Ha ha ha. Marcel Coetzee should be there; what a loss but there again Rory the Kockett was no good for the Boks but ended up playing for France. Last 3 coaches are more like buses. AC should do the right thing and RESIGN.

  • Stumps

    It took a few years to break the spirit. It will take a generation to bury the sport. Its however underway and gaining momentum. Drop the emblem and fix a namakwaland daisy. Not the Protea please – it’s our national flower. Enough shame brought to our Springbok. Signing out.

    • RICHARD

      Spot on Stumps. I would add that I do not believe that the Boks will EVER be in the top 4 in the world ranking again.

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