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Is coach AC going DC?

SuperWrap 13, 2017

“I am never too old to learn,” said birthday boy Allister Coetzee on Tuesday.

The Springbok coach was answering a question at a press conference about the number of Lions players he selected in his first squad of 2017.

“What I've learned in my career as coach is you've got to reward form. And that is exactly what I've done,” he stated.

It is also exactly the kind of thinking that Lions fans have been pleading for in the last couple of years. They have every reason to cheer now. For the first time in more than two decades the Johannesburg franchise has the most representatives in a Springbok squad.

And it is not as if anyone can argue with the form book. If Super Rugby was a Springbok trial our country could have done far worse than entering the Lions as is into every international contest we compete in. They are that much better than anyone else here in the Republic.

There is just one snag that comes with that suggestion: Super Rugby is not test rugby, and good form in a provincial tournament does not necessarily mean good form on the international stage.

That is even more true when we talk about Lions players, as the Boks’ disastrous 2016 campaign so vividly showed.

The problem with Lions players is not that they are not good enough for international rugby, it’s just that their good Super Rugby performances should be seen in the context of an utterly unique attacking structure. The Lions are good in a way the Springboks, in the current guise, can never fully utilise.

We can use Elton Jantjies as an example here. For the last two years he has been our best Super Rugby flyhalf by some distance, but in a Springbok jersey he never looked even half the player we know he is.

His poor performances for the Boks have nothing to do with a lack of ability or talent, it is just that his role in the team’s set-up changes dramatically when he pulls on the green jersey.

At the Lions, Jantjies is given the freedom to run the attack. He takes the ball flat with options running off him. He decides at the last moment where the ball should go and then pulls the trigger.

At the Springboks they play their options off nine. Jantjies must sit back in the pocket and play tactically. He is removed from the immediate action and his creativity with ball in hand is completely negated. You can see the frustration boiling over inside of him.

Faf de Klerk is just as good an example. This time last year he was the darling of South African rugby, but just a couple of games in a Bok jersey (in a role he never quite understood) was enough to break all his confidence. This year he couldn’t even make the SA 'A' side.


The simple fact of the matter is that the current Springbok template is entirely incompatible with that of the Lions. It is an important point to make, not just because we have nine Lions in the 31-man Springbok squad, but because our new captain is a Lion too. And it is not exactly as if Warren Whiteley has covered himself in glory in the green-and-gold either.

Make no mistake, Whiteley is an inspirational leader and a highly respected individual both on and off the field, but even his most vocal supporters will have to agree that the No 8 tends to become anonymous when he is dragged into the trenches of the test arena.

It is a point that seems lost on the Bok coach. “When I selected Warren as captain, he was first selected based on his performances. He had consistent performances throughout and is the best No. 8 in the country,” insisted Coetzee.

Sure, coach, not many will disagree with you if we’re talking about local options, but keep in mind that his performances came playing a roaming role inside a game plan that seeks to avoid contact. That is the exact opposite of what the Boks have been doing this century.

Unless the plan, of course, is to radically alter the Springboks’ approach with ball in hand. It is something the coach hinted at during the media gathering.

“If you look at what has happened in Super Rugby you see the attacking mind-set of our franchises. When a team has an attacking mind-set you'll use your loose-forwards to give you width and give you the option in the wider channels. I'm happy that we have Warren that is used to that role, it will be the same role at the Springboks.”

Incorporating the Lions’ attacking style into the existing Springbok structures is something Coetzee failed at miserably in 2016. It is a marriage he will have to make work this year if he wants to bring out the full potential of almost a third of his squad.

“I am never too old to learn,” said the birthday boy on Tuesday. I, for one, would love to see him prove that.

Here is our team of the week from this week's Super Rugby action:

Bok Barometer for week 13:
15: Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), 14 Ruan Combrinck (Lions), 13 Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 12 Harold Vorster (Lions), 11 Sbu Nkosi (Sharks), 10 Elton Jantjies (Lions), 9 Cobus Reinach (Sharks), 8 Andisa Ntsila (Kings), 7 Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 6 Kwagga Smith (Lions), 5 Franco Mostert (Lions) 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), 3 Ruan Dreyer (Lions), 2 Malcolm Marx (Lions), 1 Jacques van Rooyen (Lions).

Best tries:

Best of social media:

No surprises that a guy with the name Burger would be so obsessed with food


MeLancholy getting all Depp and meaningful.


You need therapy, Sumo? We could have told you that years ago.


Too soon, twitter, too soon.


The running of the Bulls

After the Bulls horror show against the Lions, surely now the realisation must come at Loftus Versfeld that things are worse than they expected and it can’t all be the coach's fault?

Talk at the stadium is that the structures are now so disorganised and out of touch with the modern game that one man decides the fate of the players and their contracts, and he's barely older than some of the players who continually leave the union.

Which was all summed up by a text we received after the Saturday night massacre at Ellis Park.

“Breaking news!!!! 17 Bulls players are apparently considering contracts in France, because they love Toulouse!!!!”, it read.

He's Steyn afloat just nicely

One of the more interesting stories in the rugby world this past week was the 'rich list' published by a French newspaper which has Morne Steyn as South Africa’s top paid player overseas.

According to French newspaper L’Equipe, Steyn earns around R700 000 a month for his French club with Duane Vermeulen second on R670 000 a month.

Take a moment to consider those figures and it is understandable how difficult a job it is for local unions to keep their players in South Africa.

According to the list, the average salary of the French League’s 30 poorest paid players is almost 5 000 Euros (R70 000) a month.

That’s a salary that tops a lot of local players who earn Currie Cup rugby’s monthly wages.

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