Why South Africa coach Allister Coetzee is drawing inspiration from the Lions’ Super Rugby success
The Rugby Championship kicks off in a little over two weeks and South Africa coach Allister Coetzee insists that he is going to continue to evolve his team’s game plan.
The Springboks are known for being a physical side with plenty of power up front, but following the success of the Lions in Super Rugby this year he’s keen to play wider and be more creative in attack.
The Lions’ exciting, free-running game has taken them to a first Super Rugby final – they play the Hurricanes on Saturday – and Coetzee’s long-term vision for the Springboks should see the Test side draw on those strengths.
“We’ve been renowned for playing in certain ways and you can win games in lots of different ways,” says Coetzee, who guided the Boks to a 2-1 series win over Ireland in his first Tests in charge.
“Lots of other international sides understand that they have to match South Africa’s physicality and we’ve got to a bit smarter and more accurate now. I believe in a balanced style of play. There are different kinds of pressure you can apply to the opposition and that can be with ball in hand, at the set-piece, with your contact skills.
“People enjoy watching us score tries and we understand that we have got to widen our game. South Africa maybe used to be a bit narrow at times and the Lions and the Stormers have shown what can be done and the opportunities that are there if you attack with width and put more effort into playing on the edges.
“We don’t want to go all-out attack and neglect our forward style, our dominance at set-piece and the maul, but we want to be more effective.”
Half-backs Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies have been two standout performers in the Lions’ campaign and it’s now about giving that pairing a chance to gain more Test-match experience. Coetzee is also considering introducing sevens stars like Seabelo Senatla into the Test mix, if not during the Rugby Championship then in the autumn where they kick off their European tour with the Killik Cup match against the Barbarians at Wembley on Saturday 5 November.
“There are players like Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk who’ve come in and started to play a part and I hope they’ll add some more caps over the coming months and we’ll have more experience,” says Coetzee.
“We’re also looking at the national sevens side who are going to the Olympics. Seabelo Senatla has had a good year and was promising at Western Province and went on to play one Super Rugby game. We’d like to look at him, then there’s Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard, who did so well at Worcester last season.”
Coetzee will go up against a familiar foe in Robbie Deans when the Boks play the Barbarians in November – and he’ll be looking to end a run of two successive defeats for South Africa against the invitational side. The Baa-Baas won 22-5 in 2007 and 26-20 in 2010.
“Robbie (Deans) is a very clever coach. I was fortunate enough to coach against him in Japan when he was at Panasonic and he beat us in the semi-final of the Top League. He’s a good selector and he’ll get a good side together.
“Playing the Barbarians is a great opportunity and an exciting one and it brings a different kind of pressure. It’s very important for us to get the end-of-year tour off to a good start.
“It’s never an easy game. Your defensive systems will be tested in the backfield and the Barbarians will go for all-out attack. We’ve got some work to do as the Barbarians have done very well of late against the Springboks.
“Barbarians rugby is still an unbelievable concept. It’s important it’s maintained. I’ve chatted with most of our players this year and it’s still a huge draw for them. One day they’d all like to represent the Barbarians.”
Tickets to the Killik Cup match between the Barbarians and South Africa at Wembley on 5 November are available from Ticketmaster.co.uk.
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