OPINION: Allister loathe to use the word 'dropped'

OPINION: Allister loathe to use the word 'dropped'

In the face of a mounting barrage of criticism from many quarters and a Springbok team on a three-match losing streak in the Rugby Championship, head coach Allister Coetzee has still resisted wholesale changes.

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Coetzee kept the pack intact, but made three telling changes in the backline with Pat Lambie in the last line of defence and a new halfback combination in Rudy Paige and Morne Steyn.


Jantjies and De Klerk were a fearsome combination in a red and white Lions jersey at Super Rugby level, but just never replicated that form in the green and gold Bok jumper.


The same may not perhaps be said of French-based Johan Goosen, who should be considered a touch unlucky to have been unseated by the vastly more experienced Lambie, but in any sporting code, players who fail to meet expectations are dropped.


The inclusion of Willie le Roux on the bench is also puzzling considering his form wavered considerably enough to be excluded for two Tests, while the multi-skilled Goosen has been placed on ice for now.


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In De Klerk and Jantjies' case, yes they were axed, but Coetzee in his usual diplomatic way, managed to explain away the changes without once using the words 'excluded', 'dropped' or 'axed'.


"The message to the players is that they are part of a broader 31-man squad that will stay together for a very long time," Coetzee explained at the team announcement on Thursday.


"If you made mistakes within the group, that is part of growing up and part of gaining experience in Test rugby," he added.


What was discussed behind closed doors in the confidential coach-player one on one environment will never be known, but it begs the question whether Coetzee is sending out the right message.


The coach is not scared to admit he believes strongly in 'second chances', but neither De Klerk or Jantjies were even included in the match-day 23.


"It's not like they suddenly become bad players. On the contrary, they may even be available to play against New Zealand next week as well."


So it's not rocket science to work out that the pair were simply dropped and will have to work hard at eliminating the errors and weaknesses that led to their exclusion.


Form and performance levels are the foundations of doing well and winning and if you don't - OUT!


Without debating the merits of the selections Coetzee has come up with for the Loftus Test against the Wallabies, sadly Coetzee has stopped short of admitting that the backline reshuffle was predominantly form-related.


I also appeal to the fans to take the Lions blinkers off and see the bigger picture. The Boks need to start getting back to winning ways sooner rather than later.


Our coaches need to learn to use words like 'dropped' and 'axed' more liberally and just spit out the truth behind their decisions.


But right now Coetzee has to decide whether it's about building winning momentum or gradually building a team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The fans are certainly growing impatient, but judging by the ticket sales for Loftus and Kings Park, maybe they are sensing a late revival by the Boks.


We certainly hope that Loftus will be the Boks' greatest ally as in the past -- the Wallabies have never won at the iconic stadium -- and if anyone is familiar with the rugby hotbed that the Pretoria stadium is, it must surely be Paige and Steyn.

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