Allister Coetzee © Gallo Images
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is confident that the defensive woes that were one of several blights on the national team’s performances in 2016 will be put behind them this season due to greater planning and, hopefully, one defensive coach being in place throughout.
Brendan Venter was confirmed as the Bok defence coach on a consultancy basis at the weekend, thus bringing the Boks closer to the management team that Coetzee may have had in mind when he first started out.
Coetzee and Venter have long been confidants, dating back to the days when they worked together at the Stormers in 2008, and Coetzee’s high regard for the Strand medical doctor was confirmed when he was chosen to chair the national coaching indaba in Cape Town last year.
“When we talk about Brendan there are two things we need to keep in mind,” said Coetzee at a press conference in Stellenbosch on Monday as the national training squad got stuck into their second camp of the year.
“Firstly we share the same philosophies on the game, and he wanted to come on board to work with me. Secondly, he can add a lot of value. As I pointed out in the press release when his appointment was announced, he has worked overseas for a long time and has good knowledge of many things related to rugby coaching, but particularly to the building of a defensive system.”
Venter has been working as defence coach to the Italian national team during the South African summer, and although the Azzurri never really featured in the battle for Six Nations silverware, their defence was a stand-out feature of their play.
Of course, Venter has also been involved in successful coaching roles at Saracens and London Irish, and of course was the mastermind of the Sharks’ shock Currie Cup triumph in 2013, when his underdog team beat Coetzee’s Western Province in the Newlands final.
Although he is only hired on a consultancy basis, and will dovetail his Bok duties with working at his medical practice, Coetzee is confident that Venter will be able to successfully fulfill his role as defence mastermind.
"Brendan has been part of all our strategy and planning sessions so far. He will be with us at all our camps so I don't think it will be a problem that he also has to focus on his work as a medical doctor," said the head coach.
“It was chaos last year as we had a number of defence coaches. Under pressure in competition there will always be problems with a defensive system if the coaches and the systems are changing too regularly. These training camps are giving us an opportunity to put things in place. By June we will have seen the players three to four times, which is a big improvement on last year, when we did not see them before the Irish series.
“So while it will all come down to execution, I am confident there will be a big improvement in our defence this year.”
Coetzee said that the benefits brought by the three training camps currently scheduled for the build-up to the international season were a no-brainer.
“All international teams have to have camps. You can’t just see the players a week or two before the international season kicks off and expect the team to perform. We have a new defensive coach and we have new strategies and policies that we have brought in for this year. Brendan is in charge of defence and Franco Smith is in charge of attack.
“The first camp was about set piece and attack. This camp (in Stellenbosch) is about set piece and defence. We’ve had indabas and what was discussed at the indabas is coming through in terms of the buy in we are getting from the franchises.”