CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says that his team are continuing to learn “tough lessons”, but he feels that it is a necessary process to get back to the top of world rugby.
It was a typically “blood and guts” display from South Africa against the All Blacks at Newlands on Saturday night, but they were not able to produce a dramatic match-winning try in a 25-24 Rugby Championship defeat.
The Boks trailed 8-3 at halftime, but took a 17-15 lead with 15 minutes to go when Handré Pollard created the opening that led to Jean-Luc du Preez’s try.
But New Zealand fullback Damian McKenzie broke the game open with a thrilling run to the line, and the All Blacks closed it out to end the tournament with an unbeaten record once more.
“It’s really pleasing to come back from a 57-0 drubbing, which we felt wasn’t going to define the season. We drew against a very good Australian side, and unfortunately in all three games – Australia twice, and this one – we actually felt that we were in it, to play to win it,” Coetzee said on Saturday night.
“We still needed two points to get over the line. It’s tough lessons that we are learning, and at this point in time, we are prepared to do that. We are together for four months, and look at the All Blacks, and you see a coach like Wayne Smith has been there since 2000 – with a bit of a break – so it’s 11 years with the All Blacks.
“Mike Cron, the same as Steve Hansen, 13 years with the All Blacks. And look at Ian Foster, seven years with the All Blacks. And that tells a story here.
“And I know results are what a lot of people are measuring this team on. Although we want to win, we are still focused on the process, and that’s in place.”
Captain Eben Etzebeth was visibly disappointed afterwards, and despite being pleased with the effort put in by his teammates, it was a feeling of one that got away from the Boks.
“I’m very proud of the guys for the performance they put in tonight. But I’m also disappointed with the result – I would’ve loved to win this game at Newlands. I thought all the guys (put in big performances tonight),” the No 4 lock said.
“Coach Allister and the coaches put in perfect plans for us to win this Test match, so just thanks to them.”
The Boks finish with just two victories in the Rugby Championship – both against Argentina – with two draws against the Wallabies and a double defeat to the All Blacks.
Coetzee, though, feels that his team have progressed.
“The process is a great team environment – that is what we have. That is what players play for, and why they leave everything out there. They are enjoying playing for the Springboks again,” he said.
“And how we want to play this game, getting back to our DNA, working hard for each other – there’s a massive work ethic.
“There are one or two things we can still fix at scrum-time going forward. So I’m really pleased with this year’s Championship – we lost two games, and we could’ve won three of the rest.”