Why there can't be any excuses for Coetzee
JUNE TEST SERIES: Last year the lynch mob failed in their quest to rid the Springboks of Allister Coetzee. Jan de Koning reports why the Bok coach won't be so lucky this year.
There were many valid reasons why Coetzee was given a stay of execution, despite the annus horribilis that saw the pride of South Africa slump to seventh on the world rankings and achieve a paltry 33 percent success rate - four wins in 12 starts.
With the naysayers still calling for his head, Coetzee explained why he is "more excited" about where the team is heading in 2017.
He said it is important that the "progress" the team has made this year is measured against top teams - starting with France at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Speaking at the team's training base in Pretoria, Coetzee said the is a "massive difference" from last year to this year.
"I had no December holiday, that's where it [preparations] started," he told a media gathering at the team's hotel.
"I had to make sure we will be better off in terms of our management team.
"I am happy with the coaching team we have at this point in time.
"I am also happy we negotiated training camps."
He said that compared to 2016, the start to this year's international campaign is a "completely different process".
Not only was there three training camps scattered throughout the Super Rugby season, but the bulk of the squad gathered for a week-long build-up in Plettenberg Bay last week and that group will continue preparations in Pretoria this week.
"Those are two massive things," the coach said, adding: "Last year, also, I didn't know where I was with the overseas-based players.
"Now I know exactly where I stand with them."
He pointed out that the injury-enforced absence of veteran loose forward Duane Vermeulen means there are just two European-based players in the squad - scrumhalf Francois Hougaard (who plays for Worcester in England) and utility back Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France).
Prop Steven Kitshoff, who played for Bordeaux Bègles in France, will rejoin the Stormers in July and is no longer regarded as a 'foreigner'.
Coetzee and his team had a lot more time for preparation.
"I am more excited about where we are taking the team to," he said, adding that what he saw at the week-long camp in the Plettenberg Bay last week is reason believe 2017 will see the Boks make progress on the long way back towards the top of the world rankings.
"It starts with he team environment," he said, adding: "We never had the opportunity to create that team environment - it is unbelievable how the players responded.
"When you talk of 'team environment', it is not just something you have on a piece of paper or a presentation. You have to live it and that is exactly what the players did in Plettenberg Bay. They brainstormed everything in terms of the team environment they want to have going forward.
"We have gone through a thorough and genuine process and I feel there will be better team cohesion, better unity and a great understanding of what it means to be a Springbok."
By Jan de Koning, at the Springbok camp in Pretoria