Springbok review: Ups and downs of 2017

Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Thirteen Tests, seven wins, four losses and two draws. 

That was the Springboks' record in 2017 and while it was much better than the four wins and eight losses from 2016, it was far from satisfying. 

Of course, the 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany and the 38-3 defeat to Ireland in Dublin stood out as serious lows, and those two results effectively ruined what had been a promising year for the Boks. 

Coach Allister Coetzee, fighting for his job this week, had considered 2017 a fresh start where he was able to assemble his own coaching staff and have more time with his players. 

This was to be the year where it started clicking for the former Stormers mentor and while he got off to a flying start against a poor French side on home soil, things started to unravel after that. 

Here, we take a look at the 2017 Springbok season match by match:

June 10, Pretoria: SA 37-14 France

Coetzee unleashed no less than five debutants in this match and as the Boks scored four tries on their way to a comfortable win, it was the perfect start to the year. It became clear quickly, though, that this French team was not as good as sides from the past and that they would struggle in SA. It would also be the first of many massive performances from Malcolm Marx in Bok colours, while Jan Serfontein also stood up ahead of what would be a big year for him. 

June 17, Durban: SA 37-15 France

The Boks, once more, got through untroubled. There were four tries once more - two in each half - and Siya Kolisi was named man of the match. The Stormers loose forward was in fantastic touch, particularly on attack where he scored an impressive try and also set one up. Elton Jantjies, meanwhile, had another solid display at flyhalf, kicking 7 from 8. 

June 24, Johannesburg: SA 35-12 France

It was job done after this one as the Springboks secured a commanding 3-0 series win against the French. They took a while to get going, but two tries in the last 10 minutes made it comfortable. Given the horrors of 2016, a series whitewash to kick off the new season was exactly what Coetzee needed and there was a definite sense of optimism surrounding the national side once more. 

August 19, Port Elizabeth: SA 37-15 Argentina

The Rugby Championship campaign got off to a solid start for the Boks as they put four tries past the Pumas. They did not get the bonus point, though, as they conceded twice. Coenie Oosthuizen was big for the Boks on the day while there was also an international debut for Sharks youngster Curwin Bosch, who came off the bench in the final minutes to give a shaky display at flyhalf. 

August 26, Salta: Argentina 23-41 SA

The build-up to the match saw a lot of Bok fans angered by the fact that the national side would be playing in red. It didn't hamper their performance, though, as the Boks scored five tries to two to secure a bonus-point win. Kolisi scored two himself as Coetzee secured his first ever win away from home in his seventh attempt. Five games into the year, the Boks had a perfect record and it looked like Coetzee was starting to find his feet. 

September 9, Perth: Australia 23-23 SA

This was the first real Test for the Boks in 2017 and they didn't do themselves any favours in the first half where they played their worst rugby of the year so far. The Boks had major lineout problems while they made basic errors, but in the last 35 minutes they were dominant. A win over the Wallabies away would have seen the Boks make a major statement, and the end result certainly signified a golden opportunity lost for Coetzee. 

September 16, Albany: NZ 57-0 SA

All of the hard work and promise shown by the Boks in 2017 was obliterated in 80 minutes when the All Blacks illustrated how big the gap between the sides still was. It was the worst result in the history of South African rugby and the Boks were absolutely nowhere. The aftermath, as expected, was brutal. The Boks, and Coetzee, were back to square one. This was also the last time that wing Raymond Rhule, exposed defensively on the night, played for the national side. 

September 30, Bloemfontein: SA 27-27 Australia

The Boks needed to bounce back after the Albany disaster, but they didn't. This was a fixture they won in 2016, but the Wallabies were much-improved this time around. Jantjies had a tough kick to win the game in the dying stages, but he missed a rare chance to be a Bok hero. The post-match press conferences were heated, with Coetzee lashing out at suggestions that assistant coach Johann van Graan was on his way to Munster and Aussie coach Michael Cheika defending Israel Folau's hair-pulling on Dillyn Leyds. 

October 7, Cape Town: SA 24-25 NZ

The match of the year, even if the Boks ended up on the losing side. They were on the ropes following the Albany result and they needed a big showing. The forwards were immense for the hosts and they ran the All Blacks close, but ultimately it was another loss to the 'old foe'. The reaction to the game was almost one of celebration from a South African perspective, emphasising just how far they had fallen behind the All Blacks over the past few years. The Boks had won two, lost two and drawn two at the end of their Rugby Championship, finishing third on the log. 

November 11, Dublin: Ireland 38-3 SA

If Coetzee does lose his job, this will be considered the final nail in his coffin. The Boks were abysmal. Ireland beat them in the air with well-weighted contestable kicks while South Africa's tactical kicking, from Ross Cronje in particular, was embarrassing. Going into the tour, this was considered the toughest fixture for the Boks and a win would have set things up nicely. But the result and how one-sided it was did the opposite, and the Boks had almost ensured that their tour was a failure just one game in. 

November 18, Paris: France 17-18 SA

This was just a horrible game of rugby that saw two struggling sides bash away at each other. The Boks came out on top and it was a timely win given recent results, but the performance was far from inspiring. This was also the game that saw Coetzee lose patience with Jantjies as he brought in Handre Pollard for his first start since the 2015 World Cup. The Boks were back to winning ways, but few supporters felt that they had turned the corner. 

November 25, Padua: Italy 6-35 SA

There was no real contest here as the Boks bullied the Italians up front and bashed their way to five converted tries. There was to be no repeat of the Florence shock from 2016, but again the Boks did not inspire much hope that things were improving. This Italian side is seriously poor, and that the Boks had to rely on a forward-heavy display with a full-strength side spoke volumes. 

December 2, Cardiff: Wales 24-22 SA

The Boks were 14-0 down in no time and did well to fight their way back into the match, but the damage was done as they limped to another disappointing loss. Coetzee finally gave Warrick Gelant a start and the Bulls speedster scored a try in a largely inconsistent performance. After the match, Coetzee was grilled on his future but insisted that his contract with the national side was until 2019 and that he wasn't going anywhere. It brought the curtain down on a year that had promised much but delivered little. 

Pics: Gallo and Getty Images


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