Boks coach wants substance over style

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee begins his first Rugby Championship campaign on Saturday knowing the Springboks must master their old strengths against Argentina before they can start to spread their wings.

South Africa has traditionally played a conservative style of rugby, relying on superior physical strength in the tackle and an accurate kicking game.

But the success of the free-flowing Lions in Super Rugby this season has fuelled ambitions of a more expansive gameplan at international level.

Nevertheless, Coetzee is not allowing his team get ahead of itself, given that the players will come up against a side boasting an intimidating pack of forwards.

“We’ll be facing a massive forward onslaught,” Coetzee said on Thursday.

“We’ve got to have dominance, or at least parity, up front. It’s going to be a set-piece battle.

“But we have quality backs out there, so if we give them good possession then they will finish.”

Playmaker Johan Goosen has been given his first start for South Africa since the end of 2014, making his return at fullback, while veteran winger Bryan Habana is also back after missing the June series against Ireland.

While imposing No.8 Duane Vermeulen was ruled out with a knee injury, Warren Whiteley represents a more than able substitute after an excellent season in Super Rugby, when he led the Lions to the final.

South Africa got off to a bumpy start under Coetzee. The team lost its opening game to Ireland, and although it won the next two Tests to take the series, the 53-year-old coach knows that more will be required against last year’s World Cup semi-finalists.

“We’ve got to improve in a big way, not just little improvements,” he said.

While the June results were lacklustre, the gradual evolution of a new South African game plan was not lost on Saturday’s opposition.

“You can see that South Africa is now playing more with the ball, and not the old direct and physical game,” Argentina flanker Pablo Matera told the Business Day newspaper.

“They have new moves, playing the ball more and playing a more dynamic game.”

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