Dublin the death of Coetzee as Springbok coach

Allister Coetzee’s two year horror show as Springbok coach must – and will – be ended. His results haven’t been good enough. The progress of the team hasn’t been good enough. He cannot survive the disasters of Albany and Dublin.

There is no way to sugar coat Dublin, just as it would be disingenuous to dismiss that awful Springbok night in Albany, New Zealand as a one-off that needed to be forgotten for the team to move on.

Coetzee and his Springboks like to speak of ‘burying the past and only focusing on the future’.

In my Business Day Newspaper column I write that the only thing that should be buried is Coetzee’s Springbok coaching tenure. It has been an unmitigated disaster. Criticism of Coetzee has absolutely nothing to do with culture, race or his taste in food.

It also has nothing to do with his personality. Those who know Coetzee well will tell you what a wonderful person he is. My professional interactions with Coetzee second that, in South African speak, Allister is a good oke.

But the Springboks need more than a good oke at the helm. They need a coach who can turn the ridicule into results.

Coetzee, with nine wins in 22 Tests, simply hasn’t cut it as Springbok coach. His side in those 22 Tests has not beaten a team ranked higher at the time of each respective match. Coetzee’s Boks are one from 10 away from home, with that victory in Salta against a Pumas team that has lost 16 of its last 18 Tests and is ranked 10th in the world.

Coetzee’s Boks in 2016 didn’t win a Test on the end of year tour. They were beaten by England, Italy and Wales. This followed two Test defeats against the All Blacks, in which the Springboks scored 13 points and conceded 98.

Coetzee’s defence was he didn’t have his own support staff and that he didn’t have enough time to prepare for the season. He blamed the system, the players’ lack of conditioning, a lack of support from franchise coaches and sought sympathy for what he terms was a no-win situation.

In 2017 Coetzee got his own support staff, he got the team he wanted and he got the buy in from all the franchises on his Bok plan. He asked to be judged on results once he had been given the necessary and also given time with the players.

Preparation in 2017 has been without comparison, said Coetzee. He couldn’t have asked for more, in terms of planning and commitment from his squad. He has consistently backed players who have not produced in the big moments.

The Springboks season was going to be judged on two results in 2017 – how they went against the All Blacks in New Zealand and the performance against Ireland in Dublin. These two teams would be the measure of the Boks’ improvement from 2016. The results were damning. The Boks scored three points and conceded 95, including 12 tries.

The core of those players who crumbled in Albany were the same players who disintegrated in Dublin.
These are the players Coetzee insists are the best players, home or abroad.

These are his selections and clearly they are not good enough selections. Don’t blame the player for being picked; the responsibility is on the individual(s) making the selections.

No coach in the history of the Springboks has been given as much protection as Coetzee when it comes to the lack of delivery. Coaches with far superior returns were given the axe because of the nature of defeats against certain teams, most notably the All Blacks.

But the extent of Coetzee’s results extend failure against the All Blacks. There’s been a first ever loss to Italy, a first ever failure against the Pumas in Argentina, two record-breaking defeats to the All Blacks (57-15 and 57-0), defeat to Wales, a first ever home defeat against Ireland and now a 35 point reversal against the same Irish in Dublin.

The Springboks previously had won nine from 15 against Ireland in Ireland and the average score favoured the Springboks 16-13. Contests against the Irish traditionally have been close, especially in the last decade. Never has a Bok team been so clinically destroyed, as was the case in Dublin.

There simply are no more excuses for Coetzee and there’s no positive to take from Dublin, just like there weren’t positives from Albany.

Whatever happens in Paris, against Italy or in the season’s final Test against Wales in Cardiff cannot soften the 2017 Springboks assessment. It’s a failure with a capital F.

This ‘F’ is based on Albany and Dublin. The judgement shouldn’t be made on a comparison to the lowest point of 2016 or on emotionally charged home performances, or victories against teams ranked eighth and 10th in the world.

The South African Rugby Union leadership in 2017 gave Coetzee every opportunity to succeed. Dublin, as I wrote in this column a week ago, was going to be the day of deliverance or damnation for Coetzee.

And one solitary penalty is more damnation than it is delivery.

Dublin was the death of Coetzee’s Springbok tenure.


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