Allister Coetzee believes gap in rugby hemispheres is closing

South Africa coach not planning major changes for second Test

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee believes the gap between the hemispheres has closed since last year’s World Cup.

The Springboks lost to Ireland at home for the first time at Newlands on Saturday night on a day when England beat Australia in Brisbane and Wales gave world champions New Zealand a scare in Auckland.

Despite being down to 14 men for almost an hour, tries from Ireland’s Conor Murray and Jared Payne and 16 points from the boot of Paddy Jackson ruined Coetzee’s opening night as head coach of his country in the first of three Tests between the two nations.

And eight months on from the four Rugby Championship teams contesting the World Cup semi-finals on English soil, the Springboks boss reckons that there has been a power shift.

“No, not at all,” he said when asked if South Africa had lost their aura. “What we have seen today is that the northern hemisphere teams have actually caught up to the rest of the world.

“The Welsh were ahead against the All Blacks at half-time, England put up a brilliant performance to beat Australia and the Irish beat us with 14 men.

“I don’t think the squad is holding anything back about the World Cup defeats from last year, we know exactly where we went wrong and we will discuss it tactically on Monday.

“But on top of the poor performance, we still had opportunities to score. Francois Louw before half-time, JP Pietersen at the end, Faf de Klerk when he had an opportunity to get quick ball it was kicked out of his hand.

“It’s not ideal, but now we know. It’s our first attempt, we’re learning and we have to make sure we learn very quickly as a group and don’t see it as a failure.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was more cautious than his opposite number as he addressed the issue of whether the tide is turning in the direction of the European teams.

“I don’t know if the tide is turning. I think the tide, you can always get knocked over by a freak wave very, very quickly in this game,” he said.

“I watched the other games on Saturday morning. I thought England were good for their win, they were probably aided by 15 penalties conceded by Australia, that always helps a team get into the game and build continuity and rhythm going forward.

“Wales, to lead at half-time against the All Blacks is no mean feat. So, I was delighted for Gats (Warren Gatland). Eddie (Jones), obviously, he’ll be delighted with what they achieved today as well.”

Meanwhile, Coetzee says he won’t make sweeping changes to his team for the second-Test at Ellis Park next week.

Pat Lambie is out after suffering a concussion, but the outhalf could yet feature in the third match after X-rays on his neck came up all clear following his collision with CJ Stander who was shown a red card by referee Mathieu Raynal.

The head coach said his side had let themselves down by failing to beat the 14 men, but will give them a shot at redemption in Johannesburg.

“I’m pleased that the reserves have made an impact, that’s why they’re there but I believe that players should be given a chance to redeem themselves, they are all disappointed and want an opportunity to fix it,” he said.

“Therefore, players will get an opportunity to fix it next week. There’s no reason to panic, the only panic we have is that we’ve got to flipping get it right next week.

“The players are really hurting, we didn’t just disappoint ourselves, we disappointed South Africa.

“This team had all the backing, all the support and that carries an extra load and it will inspire us to get back on track quickly.”

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