Bok aura is battered and bruised, get over it

Herman Mostert
Herman Mostert

The Springbok management and players need to stop talking about the supposed aura they carry and attempt to save face in what’s been a terrible season.

On more than one occasion this year coach Allister Coetzee has stated that the “Springbok will never lose its aura”.

The first time he did so was in September before the Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Brisbane.

Coetzee hit back after former All Black coach Graham Henry had said that the team’s “fire and pride seems to be dying slowly”.

The Boks lost to the Wallabies later that week, but what followed in subsequent weeks was more worrisome: a 41-13 loss to New Zealand in Christchurch, briefly reprieved by a narrow 18-10 home win over Australia, before a record breaking 57-15 loss to the All Blacks in Durban.

The Springboks were in tatters. They had conceded 98 points in two matches against their greatest rivals, had lost to Ireland for the first time on home soil, lost away to Argentina - also for the first time ever - and appeared caught between a rock and a hard place when game plans and execution were mentioned.

As the team jetted off to Europe for a four-game year-end tour, in one of his first interviews with the British media, Coetzee again uttered “the Springbok will never lose its aura...”

What followed was a scrappy draw against a make-shift Barbarians outfit before a 37-21 loss to England.

It was another result for the history books as England claimed their first win over South Africa in a decade.

These "moments in history" have become unwanted trends following the Boks in recent times, starting with the first ever loss to Argentina in Durban last year... and who can ever forget the humiliation of losing to Japan in Brighton at last year’s Rugby World Cup?

I know I'll never forget that game!

Therefore, given the last year’s efforts, the word “aura” does not immediately spring to mind when describing the Springbok brand to a layman.

I simply had to cringe when lock Lood de Jager told South African journalists in Italy this week that “there is still an aura around the Boks”.

There's no aura at present, not if you lose to Japan, not if you struggle to subdue a second-string Ireland at home, or get outplayed by Argentina, or concede 15 tries in two games against the All Blacks!

It’s time for Coetzee and his management to accept this and move on. They’ve got two important Tests coming up - against Italy and Wales - where victories will be non-negotiable.

Knives are out for the team, with several former players expressing their dismay.

Joel Stransky believes the team’s culture is damaged, the wrong selections are made and the game plan and its execution is flawed.

Naas Botha took a dig at the coaching staff after the England loss when he said the following on SuperSport: “A year ago we had a defensive structure, suddenly 10 internationals later we’ve got no plan... why are we in this situation? We’ve got a coaching staff, it doesn’t matter who they are, they should know all these things...”

James Small has also questioned what game plan is followed, while Hennie le Roux feels the players have lost respect for the coaching staff.

These are all legendary former Springboks worried about the brand of the team.

In an interview on SuperSport’s TMO programme on Tuesday night, renowned SkySports commentator Miles Harrison said that England coach Eddie Jones holds Coetzee in high regard, given their past association when Jones helped the Boks in an advisory capacity.

Coetzee has the right rugby pedigree and the merits of his selection were not questioned upon his appointment, but it’s time he draws on all his experience and get the team back on track.

The players, and the rest of the coaching staff, need to buy into Coetzee’s philosophy, with each team member clearly understanding his role.

Two more losses might see the end of him...

Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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