Loss could see Coetzee ousted
Coach describes Ireland as the All Blacks of Europe
The All Blacks may represent the ultimate test but how Allister Coetzee navigates what Ireland, France, Italy and Wales have in store in the coming Saturdays may determine his continued presence in the hot seat of South African rugby.
This tour marks more or less the halfway mark in his contractual obligations to SA Rugby and, although his team have shown definite improvement this year, the coach is not out of the woods yet.
The year 2016 is difficult to shake. Few would have expected radical improvement in fortunes this year.
Coetzee's team started off a very low base this season and improvement needs to be placed into context. Under him the team have won just once on the road in the past two years and that win, to much relief, came earlier this year against the struggling Argentina. England's B-team beat Los Pumas in a two-Test series in June.
Away wins need to come more regularly.
"It is hugely important," said flank Siya Kolisi about getting a win over Ireland on Saturday. "It's about momentum as well. This for us is the most important game. We are putting everything into this game," said Kolisi. No pressure then.
There is no doubt the Boks have performed better this season. More time to prepare ahead of the season and improved conditioning have made them more competitive. But have they improved enough?
Ireland, who Coetzee earlier this week described as the All Blacks of Europe, have an impressive recent record against the Boks. Five of their six wins over South Africa have come since 2004 when Jake White famously said no one in the Ireland team would make a combined best XV between the two sides.
This week Coetzee has done just the opposite. "They are ahead of us in terms of world ranking. Last year, to be honest, we were lucky to win the series in South Africa," he said.