Allister Coetzee starts his reign as Springbok coach against Ireland at Newlands this Saturday
The newly appointed Springbok mentor will be looking not only to beat the Irish but also implement that fabled attacking brand of rugby that South Africans have been desperately waiting to witness while a Johnny Sexton-less Irish outfit will be going all out to ensure the new ‘Bok coach’s first game at the helm is one to forget.
South Africa v Ireland | Saturday 11 June | DHL Newlands | 17:00
To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 1/12 | Draw 33/1 | Ireland 11/2
South Africa (-14.5) 9/10 | Ireland (+14.5) 9/10
It has been a whirlwind twelve or so month’s for South African rugby. Low points – the losses to Argentina and Japan – have marred what was a relatively fruitful 2015. I fully understand that the South African rugby public expects results and that the end of Heynecke Meyer’s reign was somewhat dulled (Sorry Heynecke I needed a pun and your brand of rugby was on the conservative side) by a game plan that was straight out of the Loftus training ground manual on how to play the game but there was no disgrace in the manner in which the ‘Boks bowed out of last year’s World Cup.
I am pleased to see a positive change however, in the form of Allister Coetzee being named as Springbok head coach. While many a cynic will tell you that Coetzee is just as cautious as Meyer was – they’ll cite Coetzee’s last few years at the helm of the Stormers and, with fingers pointed and arms raised, proclaim ‘he is not the Messiah’.
While I don’t think Coetzee is going to single handily save South African Rugby – that’s a job for SARU to tackle – I do think he will have a positive impact on Springbok rugby. He’s a very astute man and his first squad selection seems to indicate that he wants to get the ‘Boks playing a much more attractive brand of rugby.
The former Western Province mentor will select his first match day 23 later today and I hope he doesn’t go into his shell and pull a Heynecke on us by electing to field a side full of veterans. While I fully expect to see the names Vermeulen and Louw on the ‘Bok squad list, I hope they’re next to a number 19 or 20 rather than a seven or eight.
Jaco Kriel and Warren Whitely have been two of the standout players during the Lions' Super Rugby campaign. The duo have more than paid their dues and it would be a slight slap in the face for Coetzee to tell them that they will be fulfilling bench roles rather than donning starting jumpers.
Anyway, enough background, let’s get into the nitty gritty. The Springboks will be looking to dominate the Irish pack and then get the ball out to their dangerous outside backs in record time. Unfortunately, the best man to do that, Elton Jantjies, has been nursing a fractured finger for the last few weeks.
While we’ll have to wait until today’s squad announcement to have it confirmed, I suspect Janjties will feature from the pine with Sharks skipper Patrick Lambie fulfilling the flyhalf role. That isn’t the worst news though as Lambie is a decent ten himself and when given license, he does enjoy taking the ball to the gain line and then off-loading to his centres.
Speaking of the centres, this is where I think the ‘Boks will get the upper hand in the game. While Damian de Allende has struggled for form this term, the man who will partner him is in red hot nick. Lionel Mapoe, who currently leads the Super Rugby try-scoring stakes, will take a mile if given an inch by the Irish. He’s got electrifying pace and an eye for an angle that most cameramen would envy.
The Irish come to town with a severely depleted squad that’s missing Johnny Sexton as well as talismanic lock Paul O’Conell. The former has been left out of the touring squad due to injury while the latter hung up his playing boots last year.
If you are to be competitive when you come to South Africa there are certain boxes that you need to tick. Firstly you need a goal kicker who nails at least 80 percent of his attempts. Secondly, you need a lock who’s capable of mixing it with the South African tall timber. While understudy Ian Madigan is a competent ten, he lacks the kicking accuracy that Sexton possess in spades. And while I do think the Irish locking combination aren’t the worst pairing in the world, they lack the imposing presence that O’Conell had.
The Irish are also missing fullback Rob Kearney. The Leinster fifteen is an absolute beast under the high ball and while I rate Keith Earles, I don’t think he’s as capable under the old ‘Gary Owen’ as Kearney is.
I can foresee Earles being bombarded by high balls during the opening ten minutes. I can also see him messing one of his takes up and allowing JP Pietersen to saunter over for a five-pointer.
Verdict: South Africa (-14.5) 9/10
I can see the Springboks wiping the floor with this second string Irish side regardless of who Coetzee elects to start.