Coetzee not fazed by flyhalf showing

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 11:35

REACTION: South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has shrugged off Handre Pollard's questionable kicking display and chose to pay tribute to the character of his "unbelievable" players.

The Springboks have had a rollercoaster year with an all-time record 0-57 defeat to New Zealand in September before their worst reverse against Ireland, 3-38 a week ago.

But they have also enjoyed some good moments, winning their first five Tests this year, pushing the All Blacks to within just one point last month and then edging out France 18-17 on Saturday.

Tries from Dillyn Leyds and Jesse Kriel helped offset a poor kicking display by flyhalf Handre Pollard, who came in for Elton Jantjies but missed four of seven shots at goal.

"Handre Pollard obviously has been training with us for a very long time and he hasn't had a lot of game time," said Coetzee.

"Despite the poor goal-kicking, the sub-standard goal-kicking - not his best at all - he slotted a kick at the right time and we see how his confidence came back from that.

"His general play normally is good, I've got no problem [with that]. He's a big physical 10, he can take the ball to the line and what is pleasing is to see that his goal-kicking didn't affect his play,"

However, it's not just Pollard who are producing below-par performances, Coetzee's prefered flyhalf Jantjies has also been struggling.

Jantjies was impressive in the June Test Series against France, but his Rugby Championship showing home and away to Australia and New Zealand have been huge warnings signs.  

The coach admitted that game management was an area in which both his flyhalves need to improve.

"Both Elton and Handre are still really getting to grips with getting the territorial battle won for us at this point in time.

"We did overplay a bit [against France] at some stages but it's a step in the right direction, and I think both of them can just improve,"

What pleased Coetzee was that for the first time this year, his players had managed to carry a close encounter over the line.

"We drew two against Australia this year and lost by one point to New Zealand and those close games we couldn't really finish them off.

"And in France... under huge pressure, we could finish and close this one out and win it.

"It's unbelievable and it's a sign that there's something special in this team," said Coetzee. "We had five wins on the trot, then we drew to Australia and then had a big setback against New Zealand with the fifty-zero.

"But then we bounced back again against Australia with a draw after a big defeat and that shows character. And after that, we went to Newlands and lost by one point [to the All Blacks].

"Then we went to Ireland and we got it wrong completely, 38-3, and then again under huge pressure on tour we bounced back with a win.

"That says a lot about the character of the team, it says a lot about the team environment and the accountability the players are prepared to take on,"

Agence France-Presse