BLOEMFONTEIN - It's understandable Allister Coetzee is a little fearful of his team facing the All Blacks in Cape Town this weekend, but has he given up even before the match has kicked off?
It would appear Coetzee is preparing for the worst at Newlands on Saturday when the Springboks and All Blacks line up to wrap up their Rugby Championship campaigns.
“We’re playing against a very good All Blacks side, a team that have got unbelievable continuity and there are senior players, too; world class players," Coetzee siad after Saturday's draw against the Wallabies.
“We, as a new-look team, only got together this year so after three months and two weeks together thinking we’re in a position to topple the All Blacks would be living in a fool’s paradise.
“We’d rather look at the strides we are making and build on that,” said Coetzee. “We’re still hurting from the previous result (a 57-0 hiding in Albany just over two weeks ago) but we’ll prepare the best we can and will be ready for them.”
The Boks will have to produce a far more clinical performance though from what they delivered in Bloemfontein against the Wallabies at the weekend if they’re to rattle, or come close to edging, the New Zealanders.
On Saturday they played with width and pace, attacked from all parts, and asked plenty of the Wallabies defence, but Coetzee’s men lacked in execution and efficiency and squandered numerous chances. The All Blacks will not be as kind as the Australians, who also missed several opportunities to score more than three tries.
Coetzee, while disappointed in his team drawing for the second time against Australia, this time a 27-all draw to go with the 23-all draw in Perth, said he had found some positives from the outing and will look to build on these this coming week.
“I’m proud of the effort by the players, especially after the two weeks we had (after the Albany result). We were tested emotionally, but the players’ character came through and they got stuck in,” said the under-fire Bok boss.
“We created many opportunities, which is a big positive. We’re taking the right steps in the right direction, like playing with so much width and having a go from deep, like holding onto the ball for long periods, and our passing skills out wide, but we now need to finish off the chances; that’s the next step for us.”
Coetzee was adamant his team would continue with their free-running approach. “The most important thing for me is that we’re creating chances. If we went all conservative then the players would fear taking on their opponents and I don’t want that. We simply have to keep working hard and keep improving.”
The Boks may not have got the better of the Wallabies, but they did step up in several areas from the Albany encounter. They were better in the line-outs, they mauled well and they also defended more strongly in the wide channels. They also strung good phases together and played with speed and width.
Questions though remain about their tactical kicking and the scrum was again a worry, with the Wallabies winning a good number of penalties at the set-piece.
Coetzee will again have a selection headache this week as No 8 Uzair Cassiem will miss the New Zealand game because of a rib injury. Dan du Preez of the Sharks could come into the mix to earn his first cap, or his twin brother Jean-Luc will earn a start at eighthman.