JOHANNESBURG - The Springbok is alive and kicking and ready to take on anyone in its path, according to coach Allister Coetzee.
The Boks’ clean-sweep of France in their three-Test series this month is an indication that the horrors of last season - when they won just four Tests out of 12 - are well and truly over.
In the last three Tests, the Boks scored 12 tries to four, registering similar win margins in Pretoria (37-14), Durban (37-15) and Johannesburg (35-12). Coetzee, who went into the series under serious pressure to keep his job, said he was satisfied with the turn-around in fortunes.
“I’m very pleased where we are as a team,” he said after his side’s victory at Ellis Park on Saturday. “There was a lot of expectation going into the Loftus game, then we clinched the series in Durban ... but this was all about the serious business of turning things around.
“I thought the players responded brilliantly. It has not been an easy seven months, going back to December last year. It’s been tough.
“But everyone involved with this team, from the logistics guy ... everyone has chipped in, to make sure the belief in the Boks is back again.”
Coetzee continued: “There are a lot of small things that contribute to success, things that can’t always be measured, like a sponsor coming on board ... and then the belief of the people around me.
“Coaching the Boks is a serious business; week in and week out you manage millions of peoples’ moods.
"It’s not easy, but it is rewarding and inspiring to know that the belief is back again.”
Coetzee said he was now looking forward to bigger challenges ahead in the Rugby Championship, when the Boks will take on Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
“We will now plan for that. It’s a much tougher competition, but we have learned from last year. The travel is an especially big challenge ... we first go west to Argentina, then east to Australia and New Zealand, and then back west again, to play at home,” said Coetzee. “We will plan and we will be ready.
“What we have achieved against France is very sweet. It’s a good start to the year, but we haven’t achieved anything yet.”
While the Boks’ performance at Ellis Park was the least convincing of the series - possibly because of the disruption of having to make late changes to the backrow following the withdrawal of captain Warren Whiteley - Coetzee said he was still pleased with the outcome.
“Test rugby is always only about winning, whether it is pretty or not. I knew this one wasn’t going to be pretty,” he said.
“We had our execution problems after a few disruptions, but we still chased hard until the end of the game and to keep France tryless was certainly a step in the right direction.”
Indeed, the Boks’ defence throughout the series was a highlight and on Saturday they again tackled brilliantly to keep the French out.
Indeed, Coetzee confirmed on Saturday that defence consultant Brendan Venter, who has played a major role in improving the team in that department, would stay on for the Rugby Championship.
“The defence was not perfect, there were a couple of mistakes and missed tackles, but we got up again and again to make the next tackle and that is exciting to see.”