Bok coach, top player defend gameplan

Call goes out for individuals to stop making costly errors as team battles to get results

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and senior lock Lood de Jager have both dismissed suggestions that there was confusion over the side’s gameplan.

The Boks slumped to their sixth loss in 10 tests this year when they went down 37-21 against England last Saturday.

Now they are trying to salvage some respectability from the season as they prepare to face Italy at the weekend.

Against England, at times, it seemed as if the Boks were torn between playing for territory through the boot and using the set piece to pressurise England and at other times they seemed to want to play multiphase rugby.

“The process of what we’re trying to achieve and what the gameplan is is very clear to the players,” De Jager said.

“This past weekend we had complete clarity on how we wanted to play and what we were trying to achieve. “But individual errors cost us, and I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I made some mistakes."

“But if 15 guys make one mistake, that’s 15 errors and you can’t have that at test match level. “The plan was clear and we executed it well for the first 25-30 minutes but then mistakes crept in.”

De Jager said everyone needed to take a massive step up as individuals to lower the error rate.

Coetzee also put the defeat down to costly mistakes at crucial times and defended the gameplan while hinting that he might make some changes against Italy.

“The day I don’t have a plan, or we as a coaching staff don’t come up with a plan, then I won’t sit here,” Coetzee said.

“You could say this is the time to cut players, but you could totally ruin the confidence of the team. There is a way of going about managing tough times."

“I’ve been in this situation before and to make wholesale changes is panicking. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and it isn’t backing the process at all. “There are no guarantees that a bunch of new players would execute our plans any better."

“At this level we haven’t had time for friendlies or playing against tier-two nations to build confidence and cohesion. “Every test has huge pressure and the players have to understand that they need to get it right for a full 80 minutes."

“I’ll back players until a point when the individual is costing the team, or when I believe another player would improve the team. “And I’m at that point in a few positions. But I’m happy with our strategy because it’s clear. We don’t want to kick to defend only. That mindset has changed."

“Against England we had six attacking lineouts [in their half] and in the Rugby Championship we averaged eight or nine in our own territory. “That shows there has been an improvement in playing in the right areas of the field."

“We didn’t capitalise and lacked a little patience to hold on to the ball. There has been progress in a lot of ways and I know people don’t want to hear it because it doesn’t reflect on the scoreboard.”

Meanwhile, De Jager, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, utility back Johan Goosen, flyhalf Pat Lambie and prop Vincent Koch all sat out training in Florence with minor niggles yesterday.

But management says all will be available this weekend. Captain Adriaan Strauss also missed training as he had stayed behind in London for the World Rugby awards on Sunday night.

Lock Eben Etzebeth has been ruled out after sustaining a heavy head blow against England.