Allister Coetzee is no longer the Springbok coach after twenty-one turbulent months in the job. It was an inevitable ending after a string of poor results as well as the recently leaked letter to SA Rugby’s CEO Jurie Roux in the press last weekend.
SA Rugby released a statement on Friday, which read “SA Rugby had reached an agreement with Allister Coetzee to part ways with immediate effect. The Rugby Department of SA Rugby will manage the responsibilities of the Bok coach until the coaching and management group for 2018 is confirmed later this month.”
Coetzee had been up against it from the start and the South African public has been baying for his blood for some time. His reign got off to an inauspicious start with a first ever-home defeat to Ireland 26-20 at Newlands in Cape Town. This defeat came despite Ireland playing with 14 men for 60 minutes after a CJ Stander red card for his clash with Patrick Lambie.
After consecutive victories in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, the Springboks registered a series win against an under-strength Irish side however there was genuine concern from the get-go. The former Western Province and Stormers coach was originally appointed on a four-year contract but an agreed parting of ways means that Coetzee will not be in charge for the 2018 season.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby stated, “First and foremost we had to assess what is in the best interests of the Springboks. We’d like to thank Allister for his passion and dedication to the Springbok cause and wish him every success in his next role.”
Allister Coetzee's 2-year reign as Springbok coach came to an end yesterday. Here's his overall record from when he took charge. pic.twitter.com/Iizccp9LYA
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) February 3, 2018
While it all seems very civil on the face of it, there have been some rumblings of discontent, which were further backed up by a leaked letter to the press, which was supposedly written by Coetzee’s legal team to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. In the letter the World Cup winning assistant-coach claimed he was offered a “ceremonial role” as the Springbok coach in 2018 and would have to report to Rassie Erasmus who would be in charge of the team. On top of this various allegations were supposedly made against Rassie Erasmus and if these were true this would have made their relationship untenable.
Rassie Erasmus who returned from a successful spell at Munster to take on the role of SA Director of Rugby in November 2017 has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get SA Rugby’s house in order. It was always going to be interesting to see how the relationship would unfold between Coetzee and Erasmus once the former Springbok flanker was employed.
The SA Director of Rugby has been engaging with the various franchises and stakeholders within SA Rugby and has been planning with great attention to detail the way forward for SA Rugby.
The 54 year-old Coetzee who was appointed in April 2016 has the fourth worst record as a Springbok coach since readmission in 1992, his stats left a lot to be desired boasting a 44% win record with 11 wins, 12 losses and 2 draws from his 25 games in charge.
The three previous coaches from 2004 – Jake White, Peter De Villiers and Heyneke Meyer all boasted win-records higher than 60 percent.
The Springboks who are currently ranked sixth in the IRB rankings below Scotland among others were ranked third in the global pecking order when Coetzee took over from Meyer after the World Cup in 2015.
The passionate South African public has seen a number of records broken while he has been in charge including a first-ever defeat to Italy in Firenze, a record 57-0 defeat to New Zealand in the eight-try rout in Albany, as well as a first ever home defeat to Ireland. It was however the end of year tour in 2017 where another record defeat, this time to Ireland 38-3 and a loss to a Wales “B” side at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff which seemed to have proved to be the final nail in the coffin.
In 2016 the South African sides results were extremely poor however these were forgiven due to the Bok coach stating he had a lack of preparation time even though Eddie Jones had a similar amount of time with his England charges. The enforcement of Coetzee’s support staff was another gripe however these details should have been sorted out up front with SA Rugby during contract negotiations.
His second year in charge saw Coetzee get his required support staff of choice and a great amount of assistance was given to him and allowed him every opportunity to be successful.
In 2017 there was a much better start to the season with a 3-0 whitewash of an exhausted and poor French side that had just finished their season. This was followed by home and away victories against a struggling Argentina side. In fairness to Coetzee he could only play what was in front of him and five from five was a much-improved start from the year before.
The wheels well and truly came off in Albany and a tough end of year tour results- wise always meant that questions were going to be asked and led to a parting of ways. A few issues arose under his tenure, which didn’t help his cause. Firstly he kept faith in underperforming players – especially in the back three. While continuity is important it is vital that the players are performing for continued selection, this wasn’t always the case.
His clear desire to select locally-based players was to be admired and there is no doubt that the player drain to Europe with over 300 South Africans playing professionally abroad is effecting SA rugby. However, the 30-cap eligibility ruling allowed him to select among others Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, Bismarck Du Plessis, Willie Le Roux, which he declined
to do. When eventually selecting Vermeulen and Louw the impact was immediate.
These players would have added a massive amount of value to the Springbok set-up whether starting or in the squad. There was an expectancy to see an improvement in transformation. Players like Nizaam Carr who had a very successful stint at Wasps recently, Lukhanyo Am and Warrick Gelant were continually over-looked whilst displaying all the necessary talent and attributes to take the step-up to the Test arena.
It must be said, Allister Coetzee is a true rugby man and he has performed in various provincial roles and as the World Cup winning assistant-coach with aplomb. He is highly thought of and is renowned to have a great relationship with his players but his role as Head Coach of the Springboks proved to be unsuccessful.
On the news of the parting of ways Coetzee said “I have always held Springbok rugby dear to my heart and will continue to do so and for that reason I think now is the time the team and me strike out in new directions. I wish Springbok rugby every success in the future – as I have always done.”
It remains to be seen what next for SA Rugby but it all points to Rassie Erasmus taking the Springboks through to the World Cup in Japan. There are only approximately 18 Test matches and 20 months to turn the once mighty Springboks around.
The former Munster boss has already recruited Jacques Nienaber to the SA Rugby set up in what should be an interesting time for SA Rugby. The new coaching set up doesn’t have an easy start with a three match series against high-flying England starting in June. SA Rugby and its faithful supporters will be hoping Rassie Erasmus can replicate his Munster achievements with the Springboks.
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