JOHANNESBURG – One defeat doesn’t make the Springboks a bad team.
That was the defiant stance of coach Allister Coetzee when he returned home on Sunday evening following his team’s record 57-0 hiding at the hands of the All Blacks at the weekend.
The Boks returned home with two Rugby Championship points in the bag following their drawn match against Australia the week before, but the chances of the Boks winning the competition are now zero – the All Blacks made sure of that.
In a stunning display of near-perfect rugby, Steve Hansen’s men smashed the Boks in all departments on Saturday, handing Coetzee’s team their second straight 50-point drubbing. In Durban last year, Coetzee’s men lost 57-15.
After registering five straight wins earlier this year, against France (three) and Argentina (two), and drawing with Australia, it was hoped the Boks would put up some resistance.
At 31-0 down at halftime, they never had a chance. But Coetzee said he wouldn’t let the defeat define him or the team.
“You don’t get defined by one defeat. Even the All Blacks lost to the British and Irish Lions earlier this year... and they didn’t become a bad team,” he said on his arrival back in South Africa.
“We’re being tested in the depth department (following a few injuries) and new players coming in this year, but I believe the progress is still there.
“We’ve had one defeat out of seven (games) and brought two points back home; that’s the story.”
He called the 80 minutes the All Blacks produced the “perfect storm”.
“We hit the perfect storm... they’d been criticised for their performance against Australia and Argentina, and we all know you don’t need to motivate the All Blacks to play against the Boks. It was the perfect day for them; we didn’t execute, and they punished us.”
Having now faced the best team in the world, Coetzee said the Boks – especially the newcomers to the team this season – now had a greater idea of the challenges ahead, and what the Boks need to work on to measure up.
“The pressure the All Blacks exerted through their rush defence was a new experience for some of the players. For physicality and intensity, we are also far behind.
“But this is not the time to make knee-jerk decisions, and I’m not going to blame any individuals for what happened. We’re a team, and it’s also important to note that Rome wasn’t built in one day.
“When you go through a transition, and have a new team like we do this year, one must not only focus on the storms, but look at the rainbow as well.
“There are a number of players who played for the first time against New Zealand in New Zealand, and showed good form, and I’m proud of that.”
Skipper Eben Etzebeth said the Boks had been brought back to earth after going unbeaten until Saturday. “We’d like to believe this was a once-off thing... where they were very good, and we were very bad.”
He, too, stressed the result was not a reflection of Bok rugby. “This does not define Springbok rugby. We must now step up, go back to what know, and rely on our culture.
“That’s in place, and I believe the guys can fall back on that. One result doesn’t change that.”
The Boks are next in action on September 30 when they host Australia in Bloemfontein.