Paige and Steyn must put the boot in

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:16
Large allister coetzee springbok media looks 800

REACTION: Springbok coach Allister Coetzee dropped some strong hints that the Springboks may take the conservative route in a desperate attempt to break their losing streak.

Coetzee denied that his team will just 'kick and chase' when they take on Australia in a Rugby Championship Round Five match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

However, he was adamant they first have to win the 'territory battle' in Pretoria before they can think of scoring tries.

Addressing the media after naming the team to tackle the Wallabies, Coetzee said he is confident the halfback combination of experienced flyhalf Morné Steyn and scrumhalf Rudy Paige will be key to his team winning the all-important territory battle.

Steyn and Paige replace the halfback combination of Elton Jantjies and Francois de Klerk for this weekend's match - with the inclusion of Patrick Lambie ahead of Johan Goosen at fullback the only other change to the starting XV.

Goosen, Jantjies and De Klerk all drop out of the matchday squad.

Steyn, often seen as purely  a kicking flyhalf, is also familiar with Loftus - his home for a decade of Currie Cup and Super Rugby with the Bulls.

Coetzee protested loudly when asked if Steyn's selection suggest a dramatic move away from any hint of an attacking approach - especially given the fact that Jantjies struggled to execute the coach's game plan.

The Bok coach said that while Steyn and Paige have been tasked with the job of winning the tactical kicking game, it is a mistake to label Steyn just a kicking flyhalf.

"The issue for me is our [game] plan and executing our plan," Coetzee told the media gathering," adding: "That has gone well at training this week."

He said the biggest concern is decision-making and organisation by the halfbacks and that is where Steyn and Paige have an advantage over Jantjies and De Klerk.

"The big concern, if you look at any winning teams who won championships at the highest level, is the territory battle," the coach said.

"That [territory battle] we haven't dominated and if you don't dominate territory, you won't get set piece play in the opposition's half.

"It also means you won't be able to put scoreboard pressure, because it's where you score tries from. Only once you get there [in the opposition territory] then you have the opportunity to build scoreboard pressure - so territory is always important."

He said the "message" the selection of Steyn and Paige brings is not that the Boks are just going to kick and chase.

"These two [Steyn and Paige] are better 'organisers' in the halfback positions and they have the basic skills for those positions."

Steyn and Paige will be playing alongside one another for the first time at any level of the game.

However, Coetzee does not see this factor as an issue.

"I think they are familiar with the [playing] conditions playing at Loftus," he said, adding: "They have been working hard in the system."

He also said Jantjies and De Klerk have not been discarded, even though they are out of the matchday squad.

"Elton [Jantjies] and Francois [Francois de Klerk] are part of the system and part of the set-up going forward.

"Yes, there are things they need to improve on and they will work at what they need to improve. There is a plan on the table and those two [Steyn and Paige] fits into the way we want to play this weekend.

"The message to the players [who have been left out] is that they are part of a 31-man squad that will probably stay together for a very, very long time.

"If you make mistakes in the group, that is part of growing up. Part of Test rugby is getting that experience and when you get your opportunity again is to have improved on that.

"I am a coach that believes in second chances.

"They will learn from the experience. They haven't suddenly become bad players. On the contrary, they might be available to play against New Zealand."

While Lambie plays at flyhalf for the Sharks, Coetzee is not concerned with moving to the fullback position.

"It is not a concern at all, not if you have 51 Tests [to your credit," the coach said.

"Go look back in [Lambie's international] history and see how many Tests he has played at No.15. That is why it is not a concern at Springbok level.

"He comes with leadership, the know-how and understanding [of what is required]. Pat's inclusion [at fullback] is not a gamble at all.

"The big thing about backline play - and what people don't understand - is communication and that is what Pat will do with the wings. Sound communication and great organisation are key for us.

"His positional play has been solid, he is solid under the high ball and that is an area where we also haven't been good at, is fielding those high balls. Pat is good at that," said Coetzee.

He added that in the second half Lambie will move to flyhalf and Willie le Roux will come on at fullback.

Coetzee also dismissed the notion that all but two of the backline players are playing out of position, saying this is the most experienced backline he could have chose.

"If you take your children to a doctor and he is an old doctor, you would not question him," he said, adding: "He [the doctor] has put in 10,000 hours and has made the mistakes before.

"He has come through that.

"I am confident that these players have the experience.

"Morné Steyn, how many times has he performed under pressure at Loftus?"

By Josh Isaacson
@isaacson_j
@rugby365com

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