Allister Coetzee’s two year tenure as Springbok coach must end in Cardiff this weekend, regardless of the result.
Wales in Cardiff will bring an end to Allister Coetzee’s inglorious two-year tenure as Springbok coach.
It is appropriate that the final rights on Coetzee will be delivered in an arena that could easily double as rugby’s Cathedral.
If the Millennium Stadium is the game’s rugby place of worship then the prayers of most South African rugby supports will finally be answered and we won’t see Coetzee with the Boks again.
In my Business Day column I write that Coetzee’s two year tenure has largely been a mess, from the infamous home defeat to a 14-man Ireland in Cape Town in his first Test in charge, to his team conceding 57 points in successive Tests to the All Blacks, to the record 38-3 defeat against Ireland in Dublin.
There was the other historic rugby low of losing to Italy a year ago in Florence and fortunately the Italians went into free fall after their 15 minutes of fame and subsequently haven’t put together 15 minutes of anything ever since.
The Italians, in losing 35-6 to the Springboks, were as awful as they have been at any stage in the past 12 months.
The Italians, ranked 13th in the world, had lost 10 in 11 Tests since beating the Springboks in Florence. The only success was at home against Fiji – and Fiji are ranked even lower than Italy.
The Boks won comfortably, but to applaud the victory is to applaud them for actually getting out of bed every morning to train. The win, by 20-plus points, was a given.
Wales will be a different challenge in Cardiff but the men in red certainly don’t present the game’s Everest. They, like the Springboks, are consistent only for their inconsistency and they too are a team who seldom deliver on the hype.
They will be a damn side better than the limp and impotent Italians, who were just awful against the Springboks.
The Welsh talent exceeds anything Italy could present as a collective and they certainly played their part in a thrilling Test against the All Blacks.
The Welsh were massive in the opening 30 minutes and competitive throughout, but lost 33-18 to an All Blacks team who were colossal defensively and lethal when given the chance to score.
The Springboks don’t have the attacking firepower of the All Blacks and they don’t have the defensive mindset of the New Zealanders. The Springboks are not the All Blacks, and if Wales are strong mentally then it will be a very difficult day in Cardiff and it won’t be the send off Coetzee would like to give to his critics.
If Wales play like they did against the All Blacks they will beat the Springboks.
Regardless of the result, Coetzee’s time is up. He would have had 25 Tests in charge and his winning percentage will end in the 40s. His teams would also never have beaten a team ranked higher than the Boks when the matches were played.
Coetzee’s Boks won four Tests in 12 in 2016 and in 2017 he has won seven in 12. However, four of the seven wins have been against France, who are ranked eighth in the world, have been triumphant in just seven of their last 22 Tests and on Saturday were within a conversion kick of losing for the first time to Japan. The Test, in Narbonne, ended 23-all.
The Springboks’ other wins have come against Argentina, who have won three of their last 20 Tests, didn’t win a match in the Rugby Championship and whose only success in the Northern Hemisphere was to beat Italy.
Then there’s the most recent Springbok win against the very same Italy who have rolled over against most.
It makes any analysis of the Springboks win insignificant because comparing the defeat to Ireland in Dublin to what happened against Italy would be disingenuous.
The purple prose flowed easily for Handre Pollard on social media for his powerful performance behind a dominant pack. There has never been the same generosity of prose for Elton Jantjies this season.
Pollard I hope will find consistency and imposing form in Cardiff and in 2018, because the Springboks will be a better team with Pollard strong physically and mentally.
The Springboks are also a better team when you add a handful of the very best South Africans playing up north.
Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw are just two examples of how the Boks were strengthened in the past fortnight.
Neither will be present in Cardiff and their absence should add to the confirmation of Coetzee’s end as Springbok coach.