Focusing on the state of Springbok rugby while the nation’s self-serving, so-called leaders, gorge at the trough, feels a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!
But as incredibly depressing as that is – and it really is depressing – it has to be about controlling the controllables in the hope that the little changes we make at the base of the pyramid filter up in a positive way.
Make no mistake, though, these macro factors so brutally laid out in Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers, have without doubt had an influence on all spheres of the country, including rugby.
The tidal wave of players leaving the country go not only to partake in foreign currency, but also to get themselves out of a country they no longer believe in.
Throw in the internal politicking around transformation which sees coaches unable to pick the players they want, and I think it’s fair to call the Bok coaching job the toughest gig in world rugby.
In effect, Allister Coetzee never had a chance.
Was he set up to fall? Perhaps. Was he the best man for the job? Not a chance. Was there government pressure to appoint him? Of course. Will a better man do a better job if forced to work within the same set of parameters? Yes, I believe so.
At the time of his appointment, I asked whether the RFU would have broken the bank for Allister Coetzee like they did for Eddie Jones.
This not to belittle the man, but to make a point. That being to question whether, with Coetzee’s appointment, we as a nation were chasing excellence or settling?
“Nice” or “fine” are not words that I want on my tombstone when I join Frans Erasmus and Tommie Loubscher in propping up heaven’s rugby pub . They are words associated with taking the path most trod or fence-sitting. Yet this is how I felt about Coetzee’s appointment.
“That he has chosen to take it on shows character and guts. As a South African I will support him 100%,” is a line from the column I wrote at the time of Coetzee’s appointment. And I really have tried to do exactly that. But that ends today.
It is time for Allister Coetzee to depart.
Press conferences, bar the comedy sessions when Peter de Villiers was at the helm, are dour at the best of times, but Coetzee’s clichés take the cake. When last, if ever, did you hear a technical response to a rugby question that left you thinking “Hell’s bells, this oke knows what he is doing”?
And what about those incredibly poor selections that have shown zero foresight?
In the post-isolation era, only John Williams (20%), Ian McIntosh (33%), and Carel du Plessis (37.5%) have worse records than Coetzee. They lasted 5, 12 and 8 games in the job respectively. Coetzee is on 22. Harry Viljoen, with a win-rate of 52%, lasted just 15 matches.
Coetzee is the only post-isolation Bok coach to have more points against (588) than points for (504).
With 9 wins from 22, Coetzee simply hasn’t cut it as Springbok coach. In those 22 Tests he has not beaten a team ranked higher than the Boks at the time of that match.
Away from home it gets even messier. He is 1 from 10 and that win was against Argentina, who have lost 16 of their last 18 Tests and are ranked 10th in the world.
As Mark Keohane points out in a Tweet: “The Springbok season was going to be judged on 2 results in 2017 – against the All Blacks in NZ & Ireland in Dublin. The results were damning. The Boks scored three points and conceded 95, including 12 tries”.
The time has come to judge.
“If you were confused by the kit colours,” said one of the Sky analysts after the game in Dublin on Saturday with reference to the jersey debacle, “Ireland were the team that was disciplined, organized and half decent. South Africa, the other team…”
On Coetzee’s watch, the Springboks have become the laughing stock of the rugby world. It’s simply not acceptable.
Control one of the controllables: Coetzee must go.