International Rugby, Opinions, Springboks

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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7 thoughts on “Dublin the death of Coetzee as Springbok coach

  1. fresney says:

    The future of SA rugby begins and ends with SARU. You can call for AC’s head, but at the end of the day, who selected him? At the end of a very long season, who elected to keep him? And at the very end of a terrible year for SA rugby, who is responsible for the desperate financial situation that SARU finds itself in?
    1) All SARU board members should hand in their resignations
    2) The SA minister of sport should consult with the likes of Morne du Plessis (aka intelligent individuals) to rebuild the SARU board
    3) The SA Super 18 rugby franchises should be privatized and allow foreign investors to seek ownership
    4) SARU should secure a loan and conduct a global search for a Bok coach
    There is enough up and coming black SA rugby talent. Any talk of quotas at this stage is simply an excuse that will not solve SA Rugby until points 1 though 4 are first executed.

  2. Neil Turner says:

    Genuine question: One of the challenges of the management of any team has always been how to balance the short- and long-term. Do you play your best players at every opportunity to try to get results, or do you blood youngsters to make sure the next generation is ready to take over when the time comes? In the South African context, this inevitably has a racial element to it: do the selectors pick the best players regardless of race (which due to the relative sizes of the available player pools as well as advantages in early-years training and facilities, would inevitably mean mostly white guys) or do they try to increase the representation of non-white players so as to encourage take-up of the game among the majority ethnic groups of the country, so that in future there is more talent available?
    Given that, apparently, the current approach is producing utterly terrible results, is it worth considering “writing off” the current generation from a results perspective, and picking a vastly more representative team now in the hopes that this will result in better players coming through in a decade or so?
    Honestly, I think we could name a side with thirteen or fourteen non-white players who could have done a better job than the away results to New Zealand and Ireland. Not good enough to beat those teams, perhaps, but apparently we aren’t beating them anyway, so what do we have to lose?
    So how’s this for a lineup (fitness permitting, of course)?
    1. Mtawarira
    2. Mbonami
    3. Nyakane
    4. Etzebeth
    5. du Toit
    6. Kolisi
    7. Cassiem
    8. Carr
    9. Paige
    10. Jantjies
    11. Skosan
    12. Mnisi
    13. Am
    14. Leyds
    15. Gelant

    1. Keelan Matthew Whiting says:

      Fair question but I think you’ve opened a can of worms by suggesting a team. People wont focus on the question instead spend time criticizing the team you’ve suggested (as that was my first impulse).

  3. Anton Benjamin says:

    Hi Neil (Turner)

    A team like you proposing would have lost by another 20 points to Ireland and the ABs would have put 100 points plus over your team.

    Why are you so obsessed with race? Does it bug you that Afrikaners are the best rugby players in SA hands down. Yes there are a minority of others and they be selected for sure. In the North America african americans dominate basketball and football, whites & hispanics in baseball and hockey is predominantly white. -so what, real fans do not care !!

    In your team below at best three or four players would make a bok team on merit. Your suggestion will kill off rugby as premier sport forever. And that is why I say to all talented Afrikaner rugby players – go play overseas – you will make a good living and you may go on to play test rugby for a premier rugby nation. Or just play a sport that the ANC cannot eff you over like golf, tennis, cycling, etc.

    I want to close by raising a very pertinent point that may not have been covered by Keo. Rugby for the maybe 20+ years has been desegregated. I would guess that over this period several hundred black (incl coloured) players have played or come through the CC and Super Rugby etc. Of the 300 plus South Africans playing overseas – how many are white / black? I ask this as clubs overseas are businesses – only one thing matters playing the best players and paying good money for them. In a few years time get back to me as to how many of the guys below play in the European or Japanese leagues?

    All the best
    Anton (fyi I am not a white Afrikaner – I just tell the truth)

    1. Neil Turner says:

      I think you need to read my post again. It doesn’t even remotely bug me that Afrikaners are the best rugby players (the word ‘Afrikaner’ does not, in fact appear in my post, so I don’t know where you pulled that from); my *whole point* was that the coach is trying to strike a balance between

      a) picking the best players (which at present would mean mostly white guys) in search of short-term results, and
      b) going for more representation (which would hopefully encourage more participation, which would raise standards and be good for the long-term strength of the team).

      And my point was: since the current balance is apparently not getting results in the short term anyway, what exactly do we have to lose by shifting our focus to the long term?

  4. Hamburger says:

    AC died as coach a year ago when we lost to Italy

  5. Anton Benjamin says:

    Hey Neil

    Thank you for your comments.

    Just as a FYI as regards Afrikaans rugby players, I was not directing my comment at you. If you thought so my apologies.

    Here are my comments to your reply.

    a) picking the best players (which at present would mean mostly white guys) in search of short-term results, and – Your comment.

    My comment: Why is this a short term result? Don’t you believe in merit? In all other sports other than cricket (another disaster) players are generally chosen on merit. And for sure in every other country in the world. When I watch Wade van Niekerk run or the Blitz Bokke play I don’t care about the colour of a man’s skin, I just want my team to kick ass. This obsession by SARU/ANC for representation must be dumped in favour of merit. This country has far bigger issues to worry about and if there are people out there who cannot get over it maybe they need to ask who are the racists. Most the young guys playing rugby were in diapers or not born when this nation dumped apartheid. They like any other athlete love their country but those idiots obsessed with quotas are the racists. Why don’t we have a proper quota then – Every 2nd Bok game we should play at least one Indian (Asian) player?

    b) going for more representation (which would hopefully encourage more participation, which would raise standards and be good for the long-term strength of the team). Your comment.

    My comment. I agree 100% with you and for all levels of rugby to push for max participation but when your national team runs onto the field, we have to play the best players chosen on merit only.
    And hopefully that will translate into better players of all colour.

    Your Comment. Since the current balance is apparently not getting results in the short term anyway, what exactly do we have to lose by shifting our focus to the long term?

    My comment. The team is not getting results because there are to many players who are not there on merit and the coach was also not chosen on merit. If we chose your suggested team below, I have no doubt that Italy and France would have beaten us. You have to also remember rugby is also a business and whether you like it or not rugby is still by far most popular in white & coloured communities. Many are already tuning out.Go open the Sowetan or any major black newspaper and check out the space given to rugby.
    If they SARU follow your model which they are & look forward ten years time – there is a great chance that the Boks will be at best 6 – 7th on the world rankings.

    Neil why are there so many incredible SA players playing test rugby all over the world & they are all white & mostly Afrikaans? This trend is only going to pickup and the very best white players who there for balance, will get smart and join the exodus before dooming themselves with a bok jersey. Why on earth would a guy like Marx want to play for the Boks – under the quota system you never going to win anything. He would be a rockstar in any other team (incl the ABs).

    In closing white Afrikaaners have been living in SA nearly 400 years !! When do they become members of the tribe?


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