Coetzee: Bok 'aura' alive and well
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Allister Coetzee is well aware of how far the Springboks have fallen behind the All Blacks.
However, he does not believe the chasm between the world's top-ranked team, New Zealand, and South Africa has harmed the Springboks' aura.
Addressing the media ahead of the year-end tour opener, against the Barbarians in London on Saturday, Coetzee was adamant that the Boks are still one of the big guns on the international stage.
He said they have to make a big statement on a trip that will also see them take on England (ranked No.2), Italy (No.13) and Wales (fifth, just one place behind the Boks).
"We didn't have a pleasant Rugby Championship," Coetzee said, adding: "It has been a tough year for us."
He felt that a few things are falling into place, both on and off the field, that will help the Boks on their year-end tour.
"It is a great opportunity for us to improve over the next four weeks.
"We have learnt some tough lessons and we would like to make sure we turn things around."
Also, the loss of a host of experienced players - such Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis - have contributed to the Bok slide.
"If there is no succession plan, somebody has to start afresh," Coetzee said, adding: "I have lost those players and every team goes through that [transition] and a dip.
"However, the Springbok will never lose its aura, definitely not.
"We might lose a couple of Test matches, but if you look at where the Welsh team are now and they have lost 11 Test matches in a row [against Australia]. They never lost their aura.
"Even if you look at England, where they have been [knocked out in the pool stages of the World Cup last year] and where they are now."
Coetzee said it requires patience, but felt the 'coaches indaba' just before the team's departure for Europe has laid the foundation for the team to start the climb back up to the top.
He also dismissed the notion that his Boks are there for the taking.
"I have had a good look at our player resources and management team," the Bok mentor said, adding: "As I said, the past six months we have learnt hard lessons.
"We see it as a great opportunity for us to measure ourselves against the No.2 team in the world, England, at Twickenham.
"We know exactly where we are against New Zealand. The big mistake teams make is to compare themselves with New Zealand.
"They are the front runners at this stage and way above everyone else.
"We have a good record at Twickenham so it is a great opportunity to compete against England."
Coetzee said the BaaBaas game, at the Wembley Stadium this coming Saturday, must lay a good foundation for the next week - against England.
"We must get [the tour] off to a good start.
"We see it is a good opportunity to get back to where we belong."