International Rugby, Opinions, Springboks

End of an error as Allister and Boks go separate ways

Allister Coetzee’s Springbok tenure is over.

SA Rugby’s bosses and Coetzee reached an agreement that was finalised on Friday morning.

Rassie Erasmus, as part of his portfolio as National Director of Rugby, will take charge of the Springboks for the next 18 months in preparation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Coetzee, appointed in 2016, won 11 of 25 Tests. He was originally appointed on a four year contact but the lack of results forced a review of his contract.

Coetzee’s record is the worst among Springboks coaches who have served two seasons or more since South Africa’s international return in 1992 and also the fourth worst overall since 1992. Only Carel du Plessis, who only lasted eight Test matches in 1997, had a worse record.

This was my column on Sport 24 on why results and not race prejudice was the reason Coetzee would be sacked.

Allister Coetzee’s firing has nothing to do with race and everything to do with results.

If his Springboks had a 65 percent-plus win ratio then there would be no discussion about Coetzee’s failing and pending firing.

Coetzee would have been lauded for his results, but the reality is that in the two seasons he has been in charge of the Springboks he has failed dismally. His results have not been good enough and he has also failed to deliver a transformed Springbok run-on XV.

Coetzee’s transformation record is as poor (and poorer) than his predecessors.

Professional sport is about results and Coetzee has not delivered those to his employers or the rugby public.

His first year in charge was abysmal and he survived because he cried foul of having a support staff forced on him, a lack of preparation time and whatever other external excuse he could find.

In 2017 he got the support staff he wanted; he got the training camps he wanted; he got all the external support he needed; he was given and afforded every opportunity to create an environment in which to succeed. His team failed the big Tests – and failed them big.

Coetzee’s letter to South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux and the Executive, published on Sport24 over the weekend, is one sorry excuse after the other and shows absolute lack of accountability from Coetzee. His letter read like the transcripts of his press conferences post every embarrassing Springboks defeat over the past two years.

His belief that it is an insult for him to report to a national director of rugby (in Rassie Erasmus) is in itself an insult to Erasmus, who has done Coetzee no harm and has at no stage in the past two years aimed any public criticism at Coetzee.

At a time when past and present South African rugby coaches were swinging at Coetzee’s incompetency in selection, game strategy and results, Erasmus was absent in all critique.

He simply got on with his job as Munster director of rugby, in which he had assumed the head coaching job after Anthony Foley’s death.

Erasmus combined both roles and took Munster to a Champions Cup semi-final, where they lost to eventual winners Saracens and also the PRO12 final after topping the league table.

Erasmus’s record for Munster in the PRO12 is the most successful among Irish provinces in the history of the competition, eclipsing Irish coach Joe Schmidt’s overall winning percentage with Leinster.

Erasmus also won eight from 10 matches in the Champions Cup.

He has been coaching professionally since the age of 30 after injury ended a very successful Test career with the Springboks. Erasmus has all the credentials to head up rugby in South Africa. He has done his apprenticeship locally and abroad over the last 15 years and had success wherever he has gone.

Coetzee’s fight should be with those who employed him and not Erasmus.

What is obvious though is that Coetzee will not work with Erasmus and post his emotional and vitriolic rant to Roux (by a legally drafted letter) there is no way Erasmus will work with Coetzee. The relationship between Roux and Coetzee is also non-existent and the refusal of Coetzee to front any form of responsibility for having the worst Springbok coaching record (for coaches with 10-plus Tests) makes it impossible for him to continue in any capacity within South African rugby’s national structures.

Coetzee speaks of integrity and dignity but if that was at the heart of his motivation he would have settled on a dignified exit post the awful tour of Europe last November, which included a record 38-3 defeat against Ireland and also a second successive defeat against Wales in Cardiff.

Coetzee says it is not about the money but his rugby coaching reputation. It is all about the money because his rugby coaching reputation is in tatters following 11 wins from 25 Tests.

Coetzee will be fired this week because his win percentage is 44, he oversaw the first ever home defeat against Ireland, a record away defeat against Ireland, two successive defeats against Wales in Cardiff, the first ever away defeat against the Pumas in Argentina and the first ever defeat against Italy. He will be fired because he managed just one win against Australia in four Tests and none against the All Blacks in four Tests. He will be fired because in his first three Tests against the All Blacks his teams conceded 151 points and scored 28 and leaked 23 tries and scored one.

He will be fired – and rightly so – because of performance. It has nothing to do with culture, colour or his drink of choice.

The South African Rugby Union will in all probability cough up more than they should once the labour law legalities come into play, but every extra cent spent on getting him as far away from the Springboks in 2018 will be well spent.

This week’s announcement that Coetzee is out and Erasmus is in as Springbok coach can’t come soon enough.

Record of Springbok coaches since isolation:

John Williams – 1992: Played 5, won 1, lost 4 – 20% win-record
Gerrie Sonnekus – 1993: did not take up position
Ian McIntosh – 1993-1994: Played 12, won 4, lost 6, drawn 2 – 33% win-record
Kitch Christie – 1995: Played 14, won 14 – 100 % win-record 
Andre Markgraaff – 1996: Played 13, won 8, lost 5 – 62% win-record
Carel du Plessis – 1997: Played 8, won 3, lost 5 – 38% win-record
Nick Mallett – 1997-2000: Played 38, won 27, lost 11 – 71% win-record
Harry Viljoen – 2000-2001: Played 15, won 8, lost 6, drawn 1 – 53% win-record
Rudolf Straeuli – 2002-2003: Played 23, won 12, lost 11 – 52% win-record
Jake White – 2004-2007: Played 54, won 36, lost 17, drawn 1 – 67% win-record
Peter de Villiers – 2008-2011: Played 48, won 30, lost 18 – 63% win-record
Heyneke Meyer – 2012-2015: Played 48, won 32, lost 14, drawn 2 – 67% win-record
Allister Coetzee – 2016-2018: Played 25, won 11, lost 12, drawn 2 – 44% win-record

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