Media reports that Allister Coetzee has survived the axe and will continue as Bok coach until the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are premature. The Springbok coach’s position was not discussed at the South African Rugby Union’s General Council meeting in Cape Town last week. It’s this week that Coetzee will know his fate.
And whether he stays or not, he will no longer be the one dictating the Springbok selection or game plan.
My Business Day Newspaper column is emphatic that former Cheetahs, Stormers and Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is the new rugby boss of the Springboks.
Erasmus, in November, assumed the newly created role of South African Rugby Union’s Director of Rugby for all national teams, including the Springboks.
Erasmus’s portfolio means he will be held accountable for the performance of the Springboks in 2018 and beyond. Erasmus, along with a technical committee, will this week review Coetzee’s two years in charge and Coetzee will also deliver a review of the two seasons in which his Springboks have won 11 of 25 Tests.
Coetzee’s tenure has been characterized by poor selections and even poorer strategies in winning three from 13 Tests against those teams ranked one to five in the world.
The Springboks, when Coetzee took charge in 2016, were ranked three in the world. The Boks, in Coetzee’s first year in charge, slumped to an all-time low of seventh and this year ended the season ranked sixth. The Boks were also unable to beat any higher ranked teams and lost their final Test of the year against Wales, who were ranked seventh (as opposed to the Boks’s fifth) at the time of kick-off.
There is no defence of Coetzee’s results and there is no way that the 44% win record can be disguised.
Erasmus will be entrusted with all the decision-making when it comes to the Springboks. He will either select the squad or have to approve the selection, should Coetzee somehow still be kept on as a national coach with no decision-making powers.
All indications are that Coetzee will be offered a dignified departure and the talk is that the SA Rugby Union will determine Coetzee’s first two years to be a failure and not worthy of further investment.
Coetzee’s support team of coaches will also be dumped.
It will signify the end of two of the darkest years in Springbok history – and itcan’t come soon enough. No hindsight was needed in relation to Coetzee. He was appointed for the wrong reasons and his tenure was doomed from the infamous first up home defeat against an Ireland team who won in Cape Town, despite playing an hour of the 80 with 14 men.
Finality on Coetzee’s future this week will at least end the year on a high for South African rugby supporters, who at the weekend were given a glimpse of what 2023 could have meant to rugby in this country.
The incredible atmosphere at the Cape Town stadium for the World Series Sevens, played out to a combined two-day capacity 100 000 crowd, was a two fingered salute to those World Rugby General Council members who voted so emphatically against South Africa as the host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
World Rugby CE Brett Gosper was active on social media raving about the scenes at the Cape Town stadium. It must have irked him no end to know that he was rendered powerless to elected officials who voted in favor of France’s big cash promises and against the likes of Gosper’s independent report recommendation that South Africa was the best rugby candidate for 2023.
I know it irks me. I also know I am not alone in feeling the betrayal of world rugby’s custodians, who voted for personal gain at the expense of what was best for rugby.
The Blitzboks’s epic quarter-final against Fiji was worthy of a World Cup final. There have been few matches in recent vintage to match the intensity, physicality and tempo of the early morning quarter-final when South Africa rallied from 21-5 down to win 31-26.
South Africa, the World Series champions, against Fiji, the Olympic Games champions, delivered on one of the great 7s match-ups.
Individually there was joy for Seabelo Senatla, who scored his 200th try in just his 35th tournament appearance, but the glory for rugby was in the greater collective at the Cape Town Stadium. What an occasion. What a venue.
Elsewhere, there was also more encouragement for South African rugby with individual performances from South Africans playing in Europe’s Premier competition, the Champions Cup.
Duane Vermeulen, for Toulon, was huge in denying Bath victory and Nizaam Carr, playing for Wasps, again thrived. Chris Cloete was a star for Munster and wherever the South Africans played, they excelled.