JOHANNESBURG - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is not too concerned with flyhalf Handre Pollard’s inconsistent showing in the 18-17 win over France in Paris on Saturday.
Pollard missed four kicks, but Coetzee said he was generally happy with his No 10’s overall game.
“Handre has been training with us for a long time, but he’s had little game time. His kicking at goal was sub-standard, not his best, but he slotted a kick at the right time (in the 58th minute to put the Boks 11-10 up) and his confidence came back. His performance was a step in the right direction.”
Coetzee also hailed his team’s character and bounce-back-ability.
A week earlier the Boks suffered a record - and humiliating - 38-3 defeat by Ireland in Dublin, raising fears Coetzee’s men would again tour through Europe in November and fail to pick up a win, as they did a year ago.
But a fired-up Bok team, with captain Eben Etzebeth leading the way, and followed by the likes of Lood de Jager, Malcolm Marx and Francois Venter, upped the ante and helped turn the Boks’ tour around.
“It was a pleasing and satisfying effort from the players,” said Coetzee afterwards. “It’s never easy in France and they certainly came out to play. We had to defend strongly throughout, but I thought we showed unbelievable character.”
Coetzee explained this was not the first time this season that his players had to stand up and be counted.
“We won five in a row (three against France in June and back-to-back wins against Argentina at the start of the Rugby Championship), then drew to Australia and then took nought in Albany.
“It was a setback, but we bounced back with a draw against the Wallabies again, and a one-point loss at Newlands. Now, Ireland gave us a drubbing and again we were under huge pressure, but we bounced back (against France). It says a lot about the team’s character and them accepting accountability.
“It’s easy when things go well and are working, but it’s when things aren’t working and you’re under pressure when the blame game starts ... but this team stepped up and took responsibility.”
It was a nervy performance by both teams, with plenty of errors, but the Boks certainly created more opportunities and looked the better team.
However, that does not mean they were clinical or reached a level to suggest they have actually turned the corner on tour. While the pack looked menacing and put in a powerful performance, the backs still looked far from a threatening unit.
Congrats to Dan du Preez on making his Springbok debut in the 18-17 win over France on Saturday night in Paris. pic.twitter.com/N8WjfQUs37
“This team does not have a lot of experience,” said Coetzee. “We had two draws this year, lost at Newlands by a point ... but what is pleasing about this result is that they closed it out, they finished the job.”
With regards to the new-look loose-trio combination, which included the seasoned Duane Vermeulen for the first time since June last year, Coetzee said: “We’ve got a philosophy in the team that the number on the backs mean nothing. They’re all talented players, who can play towards the ball and carry it ... and in Duane we have a line-out option, too.
“I’m really pleased with the combination. Dan du Preez was also used for his stopping power, so we’ve really got talented loosies. Pieter-Steph (du Toit) is also back next week so that leaves me with a big headache.”
Marx, man of the match in Paris, hurt his shoulder on Saturday and will undergo an MRI scan on Monday to determine the severity of the injury.