JOHANNESBURG – The series against France is wrapped up but Springboks coach Allister Coetzee wants his team to land a knock-out blow when the teams meet in the third and final Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Coetzee’s men have hit back in style at the start of this international season following a disastrous 2016 where they won only four times in 12 matches. Convincing wins in Pretoria and Durban have lifted the gloom that surrounded the team, but Coetzee says he wants to see his men kick on in Joburg on Saturday.
“There are times in Test rugby when you need to have a killer instinct ... and that’s what I want to see this weekend,” said Coetzee as his team started preparations in Joburg on Monday for the final outing against the French.
“When you plan to have more line-outs in the opposition 22m area and you do that in the game, then you need to be more clinical,” said the coach, referring to a missed line-out late in Saturday’s match in Durban when Bongi Mbonambi had come on to replace Malcolm Marx.
“I want us to be more ruthless ... in the scrums, in the line-outs, when we have possession. When we are carrying the ball and we’re in the right areas of the field we just have to look after the ball better.”
The Boks won the battle against France in Durban on Saturday and stood tall defensively, but Coetzee’s men lost several areas of the game, like in the possession and territorial departments, the number of ball carries and offloads made, suggesting the French had the better of their hosts in the attacking department.
“Yes, we certainly want to react better when we make a line break, when we need to win a breakdown, but you must also remember that we weren’t chasing the game and that’s why France had more ball carries,” explained Coetzee.
“When you’re chasing, like France were, you’re not going to kick the ball away. You’re going to hold on to it ... that’s why they seemed to attack so much.”
The Boks made 160 tackles on Saturday and missed just 20 for an 89 percent success rate, leaving the French frustrated, even though they enjoyed 66 percent of the possession over the 80 minutes. That allowed them to carry the ball 172 times to the Boks’ 73, while the French also made 166 passes to the hosts’ 89 and offloaded 23 times to the Boks’ eight.
“Our defence was outstanding,” said Coetzee. “It shows everything you need to know about the team’s attitude.”
The coach added that if the Boks kept working hard for each other and won the micro-battles, they’d continue to get better, which is the ultimate goal.
“If we continue to stop the mauls, scrum like we have, defend like we have, then the results will come. We need to stay sharp and I know this is a cliché, but if we win the small battles between the whistle blows then the result will look after itself.”
Of course, with the series done and dusted, there is the possibility of the players becoming complacent, but Coetzee said that would never happen with this group of players.
“We’re aware that we haven’t achieved anything yet. The players are taking accountability for their actions ... it’s part of our value system,” said Coetzee. “This (winning) is what is expected of you when you represent your country.
"You’ve got to keep getting up every weekend, and the players are embracing that. There is no time for complacency. We want to make sure we go into the break (before the Rugby Championship) with a positive mindset.”