Springbok backline coach Franco Smith. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix
Springbok backline coach Franco Smith. Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and assistant coach Brendan Venter talk during a training session. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / ww.photosport.nz
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and assistant coach Brendan Venter talk during a training session. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / ww.photosport.nz

DURBAN - We have grown used to Allister Coetzee’s tiresome platitudes after heavy Springbok defeats over the past two years, but to be fair to the coach he does not work alone.

Much has been said about the recruitment of the rugby brains of defence coach Brendan Venter and attack coach Franco Smith, and they remain shrewd rugby men despite the 57-0 defeat to the All Blacks on Saturday, but let’s not crucify Coetzee alone.

Venter, a proud rugby man who has engineered some shock victories in his time, notably a Currie Cup final victory for the Sharks against Western Province in 2013 that was based on clever strategy, but in North Harbour last week, the Boks leaked eight tries.

Venter will be privately devastated by that, but from the coaching box you can’t expect him to make tackles for Raymond Rhule, who missed nine, surely a figure that will cost him his place? Is Sbu Nkosi of the Sharks ready to step up to the international stage?

It has long been a criticism of South African rugby that we tend to wait too long before blooding youngsters who are clearly going to have international futures.

The whole back three was poor on defence. How much influence does Venter have on selection? He will be hurting but to reiterate, he can’t make the tackles for the players.

Now is not the time to push the panic buttons, as that tiresome cliche goes, but maybe Venter should start looking at form players such as Nkosi and Kobus van Wyk?

At flyhalf, every Test Elton Jantjies plays he does good and bad things. I am unconvinced the Boks can win a World Cup with him as the dictator, in the mould of a Dan Carter or Beauden Barrett.

But at the moment he is the best we have, given that Handre Pollard needs some serious game time, and Curwin Bosch is getting there, but personally I do not think he is ready just yet.

It might have broken him if he had been the No 10 last week against the All Blacks - there was nothing one player could have done to stop that avalanche of Kiwi attacks or change the game on attack.

Which brings us to Smith. How does he feel about his backline failing to score a single try? Why were the Boks kicking so much long ball into the deep where the All Blacks could initiate dangerous counters?

That is not how Smith coached the Cheetahs to play in Super Rugby. They would have kept the ball and had a go, and that surely would have been better than last week when the ball was hoofed down to the Kiwi predators with the invitation to have a go. And that they did, often with successful results.

It is a positive that the Boks did not implode from a 31-0 halftime deficit, but it is extremely sad when we have to look for these kind of positives in a calamitous defeat.

It is one thing to put the All Blacks on a pedestal and say they were the “perfect storm”, as Coetzee put it, but frankly the whole coaching staff must be accountable, as must every single player, and next week in Bloemfontein there can be no excuses.

The coaching staff as a unit must lift their game and brave selections must be made regarding the players that were found out by the All Blacks.

The Star

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