Coetzee slammed as battered Boks go to Europe

Allister Coetzee (Gallo)
Allister Coetzee (Gallo)

Johannesburg - South Africa coach Allister Coetzee says he does not read newspapers, which is just as well given the stinging criticism of his reign ahead of a tour to Europe.

The struggling Springboks arrive in London on Saturday for an exhibition match with the Barbarians followed by Tests against England, Italy and Wales.

After five defeats in nine Tests this year, a leading South African rugby columnist believes the two-time world champions could lose the internationals in London, Florence and Cardiff.

"Expect more carnage at Twickenham against England," wrote former Springboks media manager Mark Keohane in Business Day, mindful of a 53-3 rout there in 2002.

South Africa conceded nine tries in a 57-15 thrashing from world champions New Zealand in Durban this month - a record home loss for the green and gold.

"The potential of a first defeat against Italy is now real and Wales will complete the misery," predicted Keohane.

Coetzee was appointed last April after Heyneke Meyer opted not to seek a second four-year contract amid criticism of his "pre-historic" tactics and a reluctance to promote black stars.

Meyer had a mixed reign - coming within three points of beating New Zealand in a 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-final after a humiliating loss to minnows Japan at the start of the tournament.

Keohane believes Coetzee should have resigned after the humiliating Durban defeat by the All Blacks.

"Defeat in Durban demanded his resignation. He said the players he started with were the best, but 13 of the Lions team that played in the 2016 Super Rugby final were excluded.

"Springbok rugby is in free fall, but the arrogance of Coetzee knows no bounds. He does not read the papers and does not care what the public think.

"He was satisfied that his coaching staff and players had all the answers. His Springboks are a disgrace to the jersey.

"Coetzee is liked because he does not challenge the administrators. He is liked because he is inoffensive. But his team selections and results have been offensive.

"Equally offensive is the notion that his selections are right because a 57-15 scoreline would indicate that there was absolutely nothing right."

Keohane was critical when Coetzee succeeded Meyer, saying the former Stormers coach did not rank among the top 10 in the world and, therefore, should not have been a candidate.

While many Springboks supporters are openly pessimistic about the tour to Europe, Coetzee spent this week preparing in Johannesburg and talking tough.

"Playing during the northern hemisphere winter is always a huge challenge and we are going to have to win territorial battles inch by inch," he told reporters.

"The conditions are very different to South Africa and the battles will be even more physical and tactical than what we have experienced so far this season.

"Many past matches in Europe involving the Springboks have been won by small margins," added an assistant coach of the 2007 South Africa Rugby World Cup-winning team.

Coetzee identified defence, tactical kicking and conditioning as three areas requiring immediate improvement if a European whitewash is to be avoided.

"Our defence is not what it used to be," he lamented. "This crucial facet of our play has been neglected. Perhaps we have become obsessed with expansive, ball-in-hand rugby.

"Our tactical kicking game has failed because of poor execution and poor chasing. We have to retain the strengths of South African rugby and get better at them."

SuperSport TV analyst and former Springbok flyhalf Naas Botha said: "Everybody talks about tactical kicking, but no one understands it.

"Tactical kicking is about the opponent having to work hard to get to the ball - not kicking straight down the throat of the opposing fullback."

Coetzee said conditioning - an area where the Springboks have fallen far behind the All Blacks - was problematic and every individual needed to be handled differently.

South Africa play the Barbarians at Wembley Stadium on November 5, England at Twickenham on November 12, Italy on November 19 and Wales on November 26.

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