Bok coach: much to do quickly

Allister Coetzee (Gallo)
Allister Coetzee (Gallo)

Cape Town – Predecessor Heyneke Meyer had one start-out advantage over newly-appointed Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee … much longer to get his ducks in a row for his first Test series.

The pair boast similar starts in terms of itinerary structure, with Coetzee squaring up to Ireland in three home contests in the traditional June Test window, whereas Meyer began his four-year tenure also with a trio of challenges from visiting England in that period.

But the big difference is that Meyer settled into his position on January 27 2012, some four weeks even before Super Rugby started.

In the case of Coetzee, who at one stage had seemed likely to be nailed down for the post before Christmas, seven rounds of Super Rugby had already taken place before he was finally confirmed in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

That leaves the 52-year-old, by contrast, only some 60 days before his troops run out against the Irish in the first clash at Newlands on June 11.

Not only has there been no Bok squad get-together of any kind yet in 2016, but the important captaincy – with veterans like Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez all retired from the international fray – is yet to be finalised, with Coetzee saying at his maiden press conference that he wishes to consult with various senior minds in the camp first.

While the former Stormers mastermind may well be expected to name his preference a bit more swiftly, it should be remembered that Meyer waited until the lead-up week to the first Test against England in Durban to reveal that De Villiers was his choice for the series (an appointment later made much more permanent).

Results-wise, Meyer largely hit the ground running against those foes in 2012, deservedly winning both of the first two Tests before a 14-14 stalemate in Port Elizabeth for a 2-0 final outcome.

There are certain similarities in first opponents, as Stuart Lancaster’s England on that occasion didn’t arrive as Six Nations champions; they were runners-up to Wales who did the Grand Slam that year.

Ireland will come as third-placed finishers in the time-honoured northern hemisphere competition this year, with a 50 percent record (two wins, two losses and a draw) and widespread acknowledgement that they are “rebuilding” after being champions in both 2014 and 2015.

The Irish, currently a moderate sixth on the World Rugby rankings in comparison with the Boks’ third, were beaten quarter-finalists (by Argentina) at the 2015 World Cup.

Coetzee’s South Africa are unlikely to fall into the trap of under-estimating Ireland, who still boast some high-quality individuals, and it is often a characteristic of Bok players to put in a particularly industrious effort initially as they go all out to impress a new coach.

The Irish have lost all seven prior Test matches on these shores and many local pundits and Bok supporters will be secretly – or more brashly than that? – envisaging a 3-0 sweep, despite Coetzee’s unusually short preparation period.

He is seasoned enough as a coach in first-class rugby to know how to make best use of a compressed time-frame …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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