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 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.
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
“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 Western 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.
“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
“Tactical kicking is about the opponent having to work hard to get to the ball – not kicking straight down the throat of the opposing full-back.”
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.
South Africa (vs Barbarians)*
Forwards (17): Lourens Adriaanse, Nizaam Carr, Uzair Cassiem, Eben Etzebeth, Lizo Gqoboka, Lood de Jager, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Jean-Luc du Preez, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Thomas du Toit
Backs (13): Damian de Allende, Ruan Combrinck, Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe,Jesse Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Rudy Paige, Sergeal Petersen, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Tian Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo, Francois Venter, Piet van Zyl
*Note: no foreign-based players available for Barbarians match
South Africa (vs England, Italy and Wales)
Forwards (18): Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Nizaam Carr, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Jean-Luc du Preez, Roelof Smit, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Warren Whiteley
Backs (15): Damian de Allende, Ruan Combrinck, Faf de Klerk, Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Lionel Mapoe, Rudy Paige, Sergeal Petersen, JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux, Francois Venter, Piet van Zyl
Coach: Allister Coetzee
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