Having lost his first game in charge since replacing Heyneke Meyer in the first Test with Joe Schmidt’s tourists 10 days ago, then trail the Irish 26-10 during Saturday’s second meeting at Ellis Park, Coetzee saw his new charges roar back to life in the final 20 minutes and power to a 32-26 victory that levelled the series.
Now comes the decider in Coetzee’s native Eastern Cape and the former Eastern Province scrum-half is expecting more of the same from Ireland at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, believing the more Schmidt’s side chase history and a first series victory in South Africa, the more they will turnover ball through errors.
“The Irish have seen that they got a lot of reward from their kicking game and I think they will continue with that,” Coetzee said yesterday in Port Elizabeth. “For us, it’s a matter of handling that and making them play, make them have a go at us. It’s tough in Test match rugby, sometimes without the ball you’re a bit safer. You don’t make the mistakes and you wait for the opposition to make mistakes, but I think they’ll come out. It’s a great opportunity (for them) and a chance to give it a shot.
“They’re a side that can attack and hold onto the ball and I expect the Irish to come firing in all departments; ball in hand, kicking game, solid defence. They will definitely look at improving and stopping our momentum. It’s going to be a hell of a battle.” Coetzee has concerns at No.8 where last week’s starter Duane Vermeulen (elbow) was last night ruled out for the decider after a scan revealed a grade two tear. His replacement last Saturday, try scorer Warren Whiteley (shoulder) and sub loosehead Trevor Nyakane (ankle) are both trying to recover from knocks and will continue to be monitored.
Coetzee refused to view his side’s closing surge in isolation from the previous 60 minutes, which despite twice going 16 points down to Ireland at 19-3 and 26-10 he felt laid the foundations for the final quarter.
Yet he believes that closing period in which the Springboks scored three of their four second-half tries to shift the momentum of the series in their favour, can be a blueprint for the Boks in his new regime.
“We really managed it really well. We put pressure on their set-piece, we turned it over and we strung a good couple of phases together by putting pressure on with ball in hand. This is how I see the game, there is not just one way of applying pressure on a team.
“If it’s not through your attack, it’s through your defence or through your kicking game. That last 20 minutes for us was a bit of everything. It was a complete, good display of all of the aspects of the game being put together. Rugby will always be a gain-line battle.
“That is the message, it’s as simple as that. It’s a momentum based game, it’s a gain-line game and that’s the battle that we have to win.”