Reverse psychology, perhaps. But comments from Allister Coetzee that his Springboks effectively have no chance of beating the All Blacks in Cape Town this weekend are downright bizarre.

Mixed messages have been emanating from the Boks camp. On one hand defence coach Brendan Venter has attempted to add perspective amid typical social media vitriol by saying he was proud of the effort in last week's draw with the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, and suggesting squad confidence and belief is growing.

But after that same result, the Cape Times reported Coetzee said: "Now we can focus on next week. We're playing a very good All Blacks side... and we'd be living in a fool's paradise if we thought we could topple them. We'll keep building and keep taking strides... but we'll be ready for them."

Confused and contradictory. If these are the public statements Coetzee is making, one wonders what sort of messages he is delivering privately to his team.


If the Boks coach genuinely gives his side no hope, there is seemingly no need for supporters to get up in the wee hours of Sunday morning (NZT) to watch.

And what a message to send to locals. Fortunately many of the sell-out crowd, led by the Cape Crusaders contingent, will be supporting the All Blacks.

These are challenging times for South African rugby. The Boks have slipped to fourth in the world, and nightmares of their 57-0 mauling in Albany last month are being relived this week.

They have won one of the past 11 tests against the All Blacks, three years ago with the assistance of altitude at Ellis Park, and the last three produced a combined scoreline of 155-28.

Clearly, Coetzee is feeling the heat. At this elite level, no professional coach in recent memory has flat out suggested his side will lose. Even teams such as Samoa, prior to their 78-0 thrashing at Eden Park this year, were hopeful of beating or competing with the All Blacks.

Reverse psychology is also difficult to buy into. Generally speaking, coaches are better off building players up than knocking them down. The Boks hardly need overconfidence shaken out of them.

Such a tactic worked for Marc Lièvremont. The French coach deliberately berated his team at press conferences throughout the 2011 World Cup and it evoked a reaction from his men final, with France losing by one point. But South Africans and the French are very different people.

What seems more realistic is Coetzee let his frustrations bubble to the surface. A momentary lapse in concentration, a slip of the tongue, has followed, allowing true sentiments to be briefly expressed.

The life of a coach is never easy, not least in a passionate, expectant nation such as South Africa. Maybe the pressure is beginning to take its toll.

Coetzee's credentials were questioned long and hard after the Boks' dire 2016 campaign - their worst on record. While they have improved this season, results against the All Blacks will always provide a true gauge of where they are at. And, right now, it sure isn't pretty.

The state of flux surrounding Springboks management probably isn't helping, either.

Assistant coach Johann van Graan has been strongly linked with a move to Munster to replace Rassie Erasmus.

Strangely, Venter remains contracted to Italy until the 2019 World Cup.

And Erasmus is preparing to move home to take up his role as director of rugby, raising further questions about whether faith has been lost in Coetzee to call the shots.

Coetzee appears a good man at heart but his statements about the Boks chances against the All Blacks do nothing to inspire confidence.

Counterpart Steve Hansen did his best to brushoff the remarks on arrival, and they are unlikely to have any impact on the All Blacks' preparations. This team have become experts at focusing on themselves and blocking out external noise.

This time last year Aaron Smith was sent home early in the test week from Durban and the All Blacks still racked up a 57-15 victory, a record result against the Boks at the time.

The Boks may produce a response after Albany. Certainly this rivalry could do with it. But if his comments are to be taken at face value, Coetzee may be preparing himself for a similar result.