We’ve been professional since 1996 and world champions twice, but we’re still firing coaches when we give them spaghetti and they can’t make a hamburger.
Allister Coetzee should have raised his objections when he got the Springbok job – his claims would have had much more credibility if he’d voiced them at the beginning of his term instead of at the end. Having said that, I do believe he got the raw end of the deal. The Bok coach will never be successful when the boardroom plays the guitar and he’s expected to dance, and that all started when Allister got the job via a text message without any interview process.
I think that his love for the Boks and his desire to coach the national team probably clouded his reaction to the parameters he’d have to work in and, instead of saying it can’t be done, he overlooked the impact of those restrictions.
It’s impossible to compete in international rugby if you don’t have an even playing field. If you’re playing against top Test teams that have got carte blanche, but you don’t, then you’re not going to win.
I don’t know why anyone would want to go coach in the international arena at a disadvantage – if someone starts 10 metres ahead of you in a 100m race, then chances are you won’t catch up.
But I can empathise with Allister, and I’m sure Nick Mallett and Carel du Plessis can too, because the same thing happened to them.
One has to ask why there wasn’t a committee and an interview process. When I got the job in 2004, I had to explain what my team would be for the first Test, and then I had to tell the committee how the team would grow and change in the build up to the 2007 World Cup final.
We started with De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert, the most established centre partnership in Bok history at the time, and went into the 2007 World Cup with Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, who are probably still regarded as the best centre pairing we’ve had.
That came with planning and looking closely at who was coming through the junior ranks of South African rugby. Allister had that insight from his time at the Stormers, so why wasn’t he asked, for example, what his plan was for a player like Cheslin Kolbe?
Instead, there was no interview process to appoint someone to run one of the top teams in World Rugby, and now they’re amazed it didn’t work.
If SA Rugby had gone through the process of explaining what they wanted and Allister had reverted with what he was planning, perhaps he wouldn’t have taken the job, or they would have compromised on what they were prepared to offer him.
Something that comes with experience in coaching is taking a job where you know you can make the needed changes, and where you have the final say on how you’re going to put it all together. Allister accepted a job where he was going to get judged on a framework that everyone else gave him.
I’m tired of saying I’m disillusioned with SA rugby, but if I look at Allister and the response to his exit, the reality is that all the same problems are still there.
Who is the next coach and what is the process to appoint him? If they’re going to skip the interview process again then nothing has changed and we’ll get the same results. And even if you do change the framework now – which would be a positive because it would show that our leaders have learnt something – it isn’t really fair to the bloke who just lost his job.
Surely it should be a standard thing that the head coach comes in and picks his management team and he is allowed to create a professional environment where the players get the best available resources?
I’ve got no doubt that Rassie Erasmus would, rightly, not have agreed to come back from Ireland for anything less than that.
You’ve got to believe that the sooner we can have rugby people around SA Rugby’s decision-making table who are going to be there for a while, the better. But some of the stalwarts at SA Rugby have been in the system for a long time and we’re still not getting anywhere. And there’s no accountability; they just carry on.
They come to a meeting to announce the new coach every couple of years and they continue in their jobs. The only things that change are the team photos, not the results.
It’s funny how everyone has just moved on after the announcement that Allister will be replaced when the root problems haven’t been dealt with.
In a month’s time we’ll hear that they couldn’t find a coach, and Rassie will take over. You have to say that does smell a bit fishy – perhaps Allister didn’t get all the help he could have because there was always a Plan B waiting in the wings.
And the Boks will improve under Rassie, because the rules will be different. So why do the people who made those decisions never have to answer for them?