One of the most pleasing aspects for South Africa coach Allister Coetzee of the Springboks’ comprehensive 37-14 victory over France at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday was the final five minutes when his team were pinned inside their own 22.
France pushed hard for what would have been a consolation try, but despite having already won the game, the Springboks threw tired bodies into the defense of their line.
It was something that had been missing for much of a disastrous season last year, the worst in their history in which they lost eight of their 12 Tests, suffering historic losses to Ireland, Argentina and Italy.
“It was not a perfect performance, but what I can say is that there is a fantastic team environment that has taken shape,” Coetzee told reporters. “The last five minutes of the game, which was basically won, was spent in our 22 and we didn’t concede a try. There is a brotherhood building, about putting your body on the line for one another.”
The Springboks scored four tries and were noticeably more willing to keep the ball in hand rather than the aimless kicking that characterized their game last year.
“We have closed the chapter on 2016,” Coetzee said. “I was very happy with the performance. We are moving in the right direction. This is the first step of 13 games this season and our defense, attack and kicking game were all improved.”
“We had enough width to attack, the breakdown was unbelievable, in the physicality and the collisions, I thought we were ahead,” he said.
Unlike last year’s Springboks that looked fearful in the face of the opposition, Coetzee said there was a new “attitude” and positivity around the team.
“You can fix mistakes, but it is harder to fix attitude. That is what the players showed. When there was a mistake, there was a scramble to fix it and a lot of positivity and encouragement,” he said.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
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’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
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