CAPE TOWN – Coach Allister Coetzee has identified the upcoming end-of-year tour as a defining four weeks for the Springboks.
The Boks will kick off their tour to Europe with a highly-anticipated clash against Ireland this Saturday, which is sure to set the tone ahead of the remaining clashes against France, Italy and Wales.
Although the Boks have displayed signs of progression over the last 12 months, few will forget that they endured a painfully winless end-of-year tour in 2016 – which included a historic first-ever loss to Italy.
While the Boks will head into this weekend’s tour-opener on the back of an encouraging performance against the All Blacks at Newlands on October 7, they would have been disappointed by their failure to clinch a win that appeared to be there for the taking (24-25).
Similarly, the Springboks had to settle for relatively unsatisfactory draws in both Tests against Australia in the Rugby Championship, and the fact remains that they have not won a game since beating Argentina on August 26.
It places a weight of importance on this upcoming clash against Ireland, with the Bok squad having now settled in Dublin to continue their preparations.
“They (Ireland) are going to be very different to when we last faced them (in 2016),” Coetzee commented. “Last year was at the end of their season, now they’re in the beginning of their season.
“They’ll be stronger at home, they’re a quality side with a good set-piece, their kicking game is strong and they’ve got a good rush defence.”
It can’t be overlooked that Ireland managed to secure a historic win over the All Blacks in November last year, and Coetzee said they were under no illusions about the threats the hosts would pose.
“Ireland first up will be a big test; scrumhalf Connor Murray is a world-class player whose box kicking is pin-point accurate, and that’s a big part of their game. They also compete well in the air, so it’s going to be an aerial game over there.”
Coetzee is also clearly aware that the Boks have managed just one win away from home during his tenure – against Argentina in Salta earlier this season – and this poor record has ensured there is added importance to the end-of-year tour.
"We simply have to start winning away from home now... That would be a major stepping stone for us,” Coetzee said.
"We’re going to have to show a lot of patience against Ireland, but it’s going to be crucial for us to get the tour off to a good start.”
The Boks will name their team to face Ireland on Thursday.