Boks facing massive 'gainline test'

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 14:15

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: It is invariably described as 'war' when New Zealand and South Africa play.

The next battle in this ongoing 'war' will take place at Albany's North Harbour stadium on Saturday.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee described the All Blacks as a "classy" outfit, but added that it's going to be physical.

"That's one thing the All Blacks know when they play South Africa and we also know," he said of a battle that often drifts into the brutal side of 'physical'.

"It's going to be very physical.

"It's going to be contests all over - the breakdown, set piece, aerial bombardment.

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"The big thing about the game is how you utilise and exploit the space."

He spoke of the Boks' improved defensive efforts this year, but admitted they will tested in Albany.

"The challenge will be different defensively altogether," Coetzee said.

"I think this week will be a gainline battle.

"It's how quickly you can get off the line and adjust and make sure you make good decisions and win that gainline battle."

It has been 12 months since South Africa suffered their worst defeat on home soil.

The Boks have worked hard to bury the ghosts of 2016 and Coetzee said they are keen to write a new chapter.

"The big thing is to make sure you put yourself in a position to get it [victory] and we've really worked hard for this one," he said.

Coetzee took over the Springboks after they narrowly lost to the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup semifinals and in his first year at the helm they lost eight of 12 Tests, including a demoralising 15-57 loss to New Zealand in Durban.

A year on from that record defeat, only Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira remain in the starting line, and Coetzee's Springboks are on a six-match unbeaten run - with five wins and a draw in 2017.

"We've really buried 2016 as deep as possible and we've moved on," Coetzee said.

"There's not even a handful of those guys from last year. It's a completely different team environment, different individuals and the game, in terms of why they are Springboks and what they represent, the mindset is completely different."

However, the 54-year-old said that after wins over France and Argentina this year, and coming off a draw against Australia last week, their performance against the All Blacks would serve as a barometer to show how significant the improvement had been.

The All Blacks have played seven Tests this year with five wins, one draw and one defeat, and while coach Steve Hansen said they were "uncomfortable" with their performance, Coetzee was happy with how the Springboks were going.

"I'm pleased with where we are as a team.

We're not there yet. "

We'll test ourselves against the world's best, the number one, the unbelievable All Blacks side," he said.
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