S. Africa will seek to continue revival

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S. Africa will seek to continue revival
South Africa's Dylan Sage (left) tries to fight off England's Dan Norton.

Port Elizabeth - The Springboks lost eight of their 12 tests last year to suffer the worst season in the country's history

By Reuters

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Published: Wed 16 Aug 2017, 8:25 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 Aug 2017, 10:27 PM

South Africa will seek to continue their recent revival in this year's Rugby Championship, a tournament that will reveal much about whether their shortcomings of 2016 can be consigned to history.
The Springboks lost eight of their 12 tests last year to suffer the worst season in the country's history, plunging South African rugby into crisis and taking coach Allister Coetzee to the brink of dismissal.
However, a comprehensive 3-0 home series victory over France in June offered some green shoots of recovery and the side can now take the next step towards redemption in a much tougher set of fixtures in the Southern Hemisphere championship.
Defensively, they were vastly improved against the French, their work at the breakdown more efficient and their conditioning to last 80 minutes noticeably advanced.
There was also a greater cutting edge to their attacking play that led to an impressive 12 tries in the three tests against France, while conceding only four.
A home meeting with an inconsistent Argentina in Port Elizabeth on Saturday provides perhaps the gentlest of openings to this year's championship and Coetzee has largely chosen continuity in his squad selection.
With loose-forward Warren Whiteley sidelined by injury, perhaps for the entire Rugby Championship, lock Eben Etzebeth has been chosen to lead the side ahead of his captain at the Stormers, Siya Kolisi.
"Eben has done a fantastic job, filling in on short notice in that third test against France when Warren suffered a groin injury," Coetzee told reporters.
Coetzee continues to have worries at flyhalf where Elton Jantjies is the current number one pick, but injuries to Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie leave him thin on experienced back-ups.
That has led to a first call-up for 20-year-old Sharks number 10 Curwin Bosch, a junior Springbok seen as a prodigious talent.
"Curwin has really done well. It's great to have him. He's a talented guy, whether he's ready now or not, he's very talented and I think he will definitely play for South Africa in the future," Coetzee said.
"His out-of-hand kicking is unbelievable and he can kick to the posts as well."
Despite the loss of Whiteley, the forward pack has a solid look to it, so it will be the creativity among the backs that will determine whether the revival against France was the start of something meaningful or just papered over the cracks.
Australia and New Zealand are the other two sides in the tournament.

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