The new South Africa coach was named last week, bringing to an end a six-month wait for Heyneke Meyer’s replacement.
Here Hefin Jones discusses two of the biggest challenges the new coach, Allister Coetzee, will face:
As a part of the South African Rugby Union’s Strategic Transformation Plan – a plan to boost non-white participation in the game at all levels – every Springbok match day squad must contain seven non-white players and two of those seven must be black Africans. This strategy plays an important part in fulfilling SARU’s goal of having 50% non-white players in every domestic and national squad by 2019, according to the BBC.
Although there is a growing pool of talented non-white players at pro level, such as Test veteran Tendai Mtawarira, Bryan Habana – who recently retired from test rugby, Lionel Mapoe, Siya Kolosi, Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Trevor Nyakane, Elton Jantjies, and Nizaam Carr (the first Muslim to represent South Africa at test level), consistently including seven of them in each squad will be a challenge due to the fact that this pool is still small in comparison with the enormous pool of talent generally within the country.
Former coach Meyer came under fierce criticism (via RTÉ) during his reign for picking white players out of position instead of in-form non-white players in their natural position. But it was his selection of only eight non-white players in South Africa’s 31-man World Cup squad which caused the biggest furore, with a fringe South African political party attempting a court action to stop the Boks from travelling to England for the World Cup, an action which was thrown out of court.
With South Africa’s government getting involved in the issue as well, the new coach will have to walk a delicate tightrope.
2. Style Of Play
One of the biggest frustrations for Springbok fans at the World Cup was their team’s turgid style of play. Playing their traditional ten-man game with an emphasis on strangling and out-muscling their opponents up front, an aggressive defence and an effective kick-chase game, it wasn’t easy on the eye.
Attacking weapons such as Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana, Willie le Roux and JP Pietersen were criminally underused at the World Cup. They now have to adopt a more expansive game plan if they are to return to the top of the tree.
As noted above, they have the talent to play an attacking, high tempo game and for quite a large part of his reign Meyer did try to play this way. The 2013 Rugby Championship saw the Boks run in 23 tries including a try-fest against the All Blacks, which saw them score four tries before going down 38-27 to the world champions.
In 2014 they continued to try and play in this vein and although they ran in only twelve tries, struggling to reproduce the style of 2013, their intent was awarded with a dramatic 27-25 last-minute win over New Zealand, in one of the best games of the modern era. This more attacking style also yielded two second place finishes for Meyer’s men.
But, unfortunately, Meyer reverted to type in the shortened 2015 Rugby Championship and they lost every game, and even though they had injury problems, it was a highly disappointing campaign for the men in green. This continued into the World Cup. Despite a third place finish, the Boks failed to hit top gear throughout the tournament, including a shock group defeat to Japan.
One of the new coach’s priorities must be to change the style of play.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena
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