Johannesburg – While the storm clouds gather around embattled Springbok coach Allister “Toetie” Coetzee with reports that he could be soon without a job, Springbok lock Lood de Jager has moved to absolve Coetzee of any shortcomings after the team’s disastrous year.
De Jager, who was one of the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s standout players and also SA Rugby Player of the Year, didn’t mince his words apportioning blame to his teammates – and himself – and all but rubbished talk of Coetzee not being the right man to lead the Springboks to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Last year, which was Coetzee’s first season in charge of the national side, the Springboks lost eight of their 12 Tests that included a historic first home defeat at the hands of Ireland, a first loss against Argentina in South America and a maiden loss to Italy.
While the knives are out for Coetzee with the Saru reportedly in search of a replacement, De Jager said the players let the coach down by making too many mistakes and not following the gameplan he and his assistants set out for the team.
“The biggest thing that hindered us last year was mistakes. We had a clear plan and we knew what to do but it was up to the players,” De Jager said.
“As players, and I put my hand up first, we made too many mistakes.
It’s individual errors and if each guy makes mistakes then it is 50 mistakes and we
lose a Test match. We had clear plans to execute and coach Allister always gave us a good plan. We knew what to do.”
De Jager called the general performance of the team as “average” and said his teammates failed to step up to the required standard to be competitive and successful at international level.
“We didn’t make the step up last year. We were average. We didn’t work hard enough at the small things. We weren’t clinical enough and we made too many errors. Everybody can say this and that but what it boils down to is that we, as players, we were average. We are to blame for what happened last year and not anybody else,” said De Jager.
It is not all doom and gloom for the Springboks and De Jager believes the team’s woes from last year could be the catalyst to better performances.
The lacklustre showings including a record defeat against the All Blacks that could be a blessing in disguise for a Springbok team in dire straits.
The 24 year-old De Jager also highlighted the team’s low work rate and their inability to play for the full 80 minutes, a sentiment that is not far from the truth as only two of the 28 players that toured Europe at the end of last year allegedly passed fitness tests.
“I learnt a lot last year about how you have to work to win a Test match.
“We didn’t work hard enough. We had a lot of talent in the side. You have to work to win a Test match, you have to graft it out even against minnows.
“I don’t think we worked hard enough in the first 60 to 70 minutes to earn the win. It all comes down to work rate.
“But I see a bright future for South African rugby. Last year was a wake-up call for the players.”