JOHANNESBURG — In fairness to the Springboks, the players fought hard on Saturday in Cardiff. The Test match against Wales looked to be heading for another record defeat for the visitors, after the Welsh surged into a 21-3 lead before the Boks came back with three tries to take a brief one-point lead. Coach Warren Gatland admitted to being relieved rather than elated at his side’s 24-22 victory, partly because he was forced to field a side that showed 12 changes from the team that pushed the All Blacks hard the previous week. Both teams were without key players because the match fell outside the international window and clubs had a priority call. He had taken a gamble in playing centre Hadleigh Parkes, a Kiwi who had qualified to play for Wales just hours before kickoff. Parkes thanked his coach (and former countryman) by scoring two tries and winning the man-of-the-match award. After the game, Bok coach Allister Coetzee looked hard for the positives. He lamented Malcolm Marx’s disallowed try, believing the big hooker had grounded the ball. Despite his side having won 7 out of 13 Tests this year, Coetzee believes it’s been a positive year and a massive improvement on 2016 when the side won just 4 out of 12 Tests. Will this improvement be enough to save his job? – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth will see a specialist in Cape Town to further examine his shoulder and back injuries.
The towering lock was forced off the field just before halftime against Wales in Cardiff after he sustained a nerve injury, which caused severe pain in his left shoulder.
“The scans we took on Saturday evening after the match came out normal,” explained Dr Konrad von Hagen, the Springbok team doctor. “Eben will however visit a specialist in Cape Town to further investigate the injured shoulder and his troublesome back.”
Meanwhile, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee said a poor start cost his team at the Principality Stadium. Wales won the match 24-22 after thwarting a determined comeback from the South Africans.
“Wales got off to a flyer, scoring 14 points in the first ten minutes by using a very accurate kick for their first try and they exploited the space behind us for their second,” said Coetzee. “I am proud of the team for the way they fought back to claw their way into the lead and for showing character in the second half.
“We had our opportunities but a loose pass and some individual errors prevented us from taking those scoring opportunities.”
According to Coetzee, his side can be reasonably pleased with the four-match tour.
“We didn’t have a good start in Dublin, but we fought back to win against a determined French side in Paris and then delivered a clinical performance against Italy in very difficult weather conditions.
The Springboks lost more Tests in one year than All Blacks have lost in last 10 years
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) December 2, 2017
“If you look at where we started from at the beginning of the year, then I am pleased with the year overall. We started out as a new group, establishing a new team environment and got the results in the home series against France.
“We only lost to New Zealand in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while we were perhaps unlucky in our two draws against Australia,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee praised the emergence of a new crop of Test players this year, and said: “In this group there are several players who played their first full season of international rugby, such as Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ross Cronje, Uzair Cassiem and Franco Mostert.
Allister Coetzee says he is pleased with the year. Won the June series comfortably and "only lost to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship".
We can't afford to have a management team that fully believes the last two years were acceptable for the Springboks' legacy and fans.
— RhymesWithRuck (@jwcoetzee) December 3, 2017
“We also saw the introduction of other young players such as Wilco Louw, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Warrick Gelant and Francois Venter. These players will only get better and gain more experience the more they play together at this level.
“Eben also did a fantastic job when he took of over the captaincy from Warren Whiteley and it was great to see him grow in the role, while I am pleased with the rest of leadership group – Siya (Kolisi), Elton (Jantjies), Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) and Francois Louw, who supported him well.
“Duane Vermeulen and Francois also brought a lot of experience to the group and they both enjoyed their time with the squad. The younger players learned a lot from both of them. They have a lot to offer to Springbok rugby,” said Coetzee.