PERTH – Coach Allister Coetzee says he knows what South Africa must do to master their biggest challenge of the year against the All Blacks in the battle of the two unbeaten Rugby Championship teams.
The Springboks were overtaken at the top of the standings when they were held to a 23-23 draw by the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday, hours after the world champion New Zealanders fought back to down Argentina 39-22 at home.
South Africa have not won in New Zealand in eight years, and get the chance to pit their strengths against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
Coetzee, who has masterminded the Springboks’ turnaround in fortunes in six unbeaten internationals in 2017, knows what his team must do to come away with a coveted victory in New Zealand.
“It’s time to focus on the next one, which will be a hell of a battle. They’re still the best side in world rugby,” Coetzee said after Saturday’s draw.
“Argentina showed that when you’re accurate and you apply pressure in all the areas of the game, you can take them on.”
The All Blacks appear far from invincible after being held to a drawn three-Test series by the British and Irish Lions in July, and needing a try two minutes from time to deny Australia 35-29 in Dunedin last month.
The Springboks will be without prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who suffered a broken arm in the Test against the Wallabies.
Oosthuizen, who sustained the injury in the second half, will be replaced by uncapped front-row forward Wilco Louw.
Western Province tighthead Louw, 23, will join the Springboks in Auckland on Monday ahead of their Test at North Harbour.
Coetzee said he was happy with the character of his team against the Wallabies, but not with the outcome.
“I don’t think this Springbok side would ever be happy with a draw,” he said. “I am, however, satisfied with the overall performance, because the team showed great character in their fightback.”
The Springboks clawed back from 20-10 down early in the second half to hit the front 23-20, before Bernard Foley kicked a levelling penalty goal for the Wallabies 10 minutes from time.
“We had three line-breaks and no reward in the last couple of minutes,” Coetzee said.
“We also continue to scrum well and our lineout also functioned well, plus we saw a massive improvement in our mauling.”
Coetzee said a united approach to conditioning across the Springboks and the South African Super Rugby franchises had ensured they would be ready in the moments like the frantic final stages of the Perth thriller.
“We started that last year getting all the conditioners in one room and talk about how are we going to get the national team fit,” he said.
“Getting the national team two weeks before the first Test... how much conditioning can you then do?
“The players are spending 37 weeks with their franchises and 13-15 weeks with the Springbok side, and where should conditioning take place and happen?
“Obviously at the franchise, and that is what we’ve started and it’s not perfect yet, but we’re heading in the right direction, therefore we are conditioning.”
It was the second draw in the 84 Test matches between the Wallabies and the Springboks, and the first since a 14-14 stalemate also in Perth in 2001.
The draw meant the South Africans have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since their 38-12 romp in Brisbane in 2013.