Boks, Coetzee seek balance against French

Brendan Venter (Gallo Images)
Brendan Venter (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The Springboks, last year, looked like they were caught in between game styles. And it hurt them. 

At the beginning of Allister Coetzee's tenure as coach and after the 2015 World Cup, there was an outcry from the public and the country's rugby critics for the Boks to evolve into a side that played an attack-first brand of rugby. 

Against Ireland in June, that is what they tried to do and they emerged with a 2-1 series victory. 

But by midway through the Rugby Championship following losses to Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, Coetzee reverted back to the 'tried and tested' and relied on the boot of Morne Steyn to squeeze out a win at home against Australia. 

By the time the year was done, the Boks were four from 12 and no closer to identifying the type of game they wanted to play. 

Now, with the pressure on to win, Coetzee has some reinforcements in the form of attack coach Franco Smith and defence and exit consultant Brendan Venter. 

This time around, he is seeking a 'balance'. It's not about playing 'running' rugby, or about kicking ... it's about finding the right balance to win Test matches. 

"I’ve got a Franco Smith here, and a Brendan Venter there and it’s almost like (I'm) being a winemaker," Coetzee told media in Pretoria on Monday.

"The one (Smith) is very attack-driven and you can see that in the way the Cheetahs play, but then you’ve got Brendan Venter who has to get the defence right. And somewhere you have to find a balance.

"I’ve always been someone that has professed balance in rugby union. You cannot just run. If you just run you make a lot of turnovers and you’re behind your poles, as we’ve seen in Super Rugby at certain stages. You also cannot just kick … if you kick too much, it’s not ideal."

Coetzee says that the set piece would always be crucial to Springbok success, and that the big challenge now was for the Boks to effective in their first contact situations. This, Coetzee says, is where offloading and breakdown work becomes crucial. 

The coach said the Boks needed to rediscover their 'DNA', and while that suggests that they should play to their traditional strengths, Coetzee said there would definitely be time for attack.

"I’m happy that the Super Rugby teams have shown the attacking intent and all we need to do now is get that balance right," he said.

"Hopefully we can get out of the blocks quick, because that is what this team needs right now … a bit of confidence."

The Boks take on France in the first of three Tests this Saturday at Loftus. Kick-off is at 17:05.

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