Don’t limit Bok audit to Allister – Jake

Jake White

What we’ve heard over the past two seasons is that our rugby is on the comeback trail. The coaching Indabas went well, a lot of good working relationships were established and clever policies were put in place. The return on those developments tell a very different story.

With a record of 11 wins in 25 Tests, we obviously haven’t got it right, and now we’re blaming one guy. But how can Allister Coetzee take all the blame? He was appointed by people who said he was good enough to do the job and now that the results haven’t gone our way, only he is being held responsible.

When you’re the coach people always talk about game plans and, when you lose, they always say, “why didn’t you change the game plan at halftime?”

People are dreaming if they think you can change the game plan at halftime because you’ve spent the week training to execute one plan. You can tweak a few tactics, but you can’t change the plan.

If you could change your homework during the 15 minutes at halftime then you wouldn’t need a whole week of training to install a plan.

In the case of a loss, either the prep was wrong or you missed the mark with the execution of the plan. If the homework you’ve done is not the right homework, then the coach needs to take that on the chin at halftime.

The same applies to SA Rugby. They’ve had two years, including indabas and workshops, and the feedback out of the camp was that we’re getting closer – coaches are understanding the common goals, unions are working together and overseas players with less than 30 caps won’t be picked because we need more time with the players.

So how did we get here? It hasn’t happened overnight. It’s not like everything was going well and then Allister was appointed and we suddenly fell over. This has been coming for a long time.

On Saturday we lost against a Wales B team. We never used to lose to Wales. Nick Mallett lost to Wales for the first time in 1999, now they’ve beaten us twice in a row. How did that happen?

I see Allister’s performance is going to be reviewed, but where’s the review of SA Rugby’s board?

Many of the people involved in making key decisions in SA Rugby have been there for the duration of the slide from world champions to sixth on the rankings. We were the top team on the planet 10 years ago with players that were sought after by every top-tier club around the world. We didn’t have a problem with players leaving in those days.

In business terms, if a company’s mission statement is “we do it this way” and at some point they change and go another way, that doesn’t work. If your company is known as the best in technology or service, and you move away from that, then your whole brand falls to pieces.

The leadership of SA Rugby need to ask themselves some hard questions about what they’re delivering.

When I was coaching the Boks I was called to a meeting to explain the team’s performance in 2006, and former Bok coaches like Harry Viljoen, Nick Mallett, Rudolph Streauli and Ian McIntosh also attended.

When I told them about some of the challenges we were facing, those coaches empathised because they’d all had to deal with the same problems. That was 11 years ago. What’s changed? I’m sure if you ask him, Allister has had the same issues we all faced.

Now there’s a plea for him to ‘do the honourable thing’ and walk away. For me, the honourable thing is an open and frank audit on everybody at SA Rugby.

It’s incredible that SA Rugby are hiring people without even asking them to apply for positions. Rassie Erasmus didn’t apply to become the director of rugby, he was appointed. No-one is saying he’s not good enough, but the job was never advertised.

Allister was given the Bok job, he didn’t apply for it. He didn’t have to do a presentation on his vision for the team. Which big corporation appoints a CEO without going through due process?

At this rate, we’ll keep playing hit-and-miss and we’ll keep getting the same results.

It looks like Allister will get sacked and he alone will be held accountable for South Africa’s results. None of the administrators are being held accountable, so if it’s just the coach that has been the problem then the solution is simple – just go and get the best available coach.

If there was a condition that, should the next appointed Bok coach fail, all SA Rugby’s board members must tender their resignation, I’d be willing to bet that the appointment process would be overhauled overnight.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • dbaggins

    Thanks for the sane comments Jake.
    My personal view is that the problems run deeper than just the board. But they are the ones who yield the most power and ability to change the course.

    The media especially are filled with people who do not understand sport and want to paint scenarios in very simplistic views. One of those is that there must be a singular scape goat. In most team sports that person is the coach. Which just shows how people and media don’t really understand what coaches do or what the requirements are for a team to perform at an elite level.
    That doesn’t mean the coach is not accountable. But we can’t just clump all the problems on a coach if the system is not optimal. The results won’t change.
    SA has some seriously good coaches that are sought after the world over, yet anyone of them would struggle in the bok role… some more or less than AC but point is none would be able to deliver their style and imprint on the team fully because of the lack of support and difficulty (impossibility) of the job.

  • Andries Becker

    Thanks for the clear and honest article Jake.

    SA rugby must be accountable for this. Just removing AC will do nothing to improve the system and make things easier for the next Bok Coach.

    I have a question about the level of influence that the government has in this scenario. As you said AC was appointed ( no due process ) and he received support personnel as a bundle and we all know how that turned out.

    Now, who decided that Stick and co are qualified to fill those roles I ask and was the positions advertised or just handpicked by some faceless man. I don’t want to call SARU corrupt, but there is a massive lack of transparency and accountability around those boardroom tables.

    I call for a boycott of SARU

  • Prevyn

    It’s not often I agree with Jake White, but this time he is spot on the money… Overhaul the SA Rugby Administration!!! Yes, Alistair needs to shoulder some of the blame for the appalling performances of South Africa’s elite rugby team, but there is more to it than just the head coach pulling the strings… Have the beloved Bokke been “captured”? Food for thought…

  • TheSpecialOne

    Thanks Jake. On the money. Your last sentence is particularly poignant.

  • Gary Brown

    Agree with Jake, but in hindsight Alister did the same at stormers. The potential was there, but they didn’t deliver. Schalk, DeVilliers, habana etc. We do require a better coach, and SArugby needs an overhaul.

  • SadBokSupporter

    Correctly stated that most coaches have faced the same challenges, but unfortunately for Allister Coetzee they had a better win-to-lose ratios.
    On the point of changing tactics or moving on to a Plan B, C, etc during a match when planned tactics did not work, you stated your own problem:
    “People are dreaming if they think you can change the game plan at halftime because you’ve spent the week training to execute one plan”…Why practice & focus on only 1 tactic? Eggs…one basket stuff. Clearly lack of preparation, unlike the All Blacks who can change things when their initial tactics arent working.
    SA rugby is in shambles, from the ground up. The structures are filled with unimaginative, delusional excuse makers & blame shifters.
    If memory serves me right you recommended Allister Coetzee taking over from yourself, recommending HM to be on his support staff.
    You did very well in winning the 2007 RWC, but if we are all honest, Eddie Jones was the difference & luckily we never faced Australia nor the All Blacks in our path.
    Can’t but wonder if Eddie assisted the English instead of the Boks, if we would’ve been crowned World Champs….If we were to play his English side now…we CERTAINLY won’t be.

    Heart broken Bok supporter

    • Frankie Knuckles

      Australia was beaten by England.
      All Blacks by France.
      England beat France.
      Springboks beat England.
      Stop this stupid Eddie Jones crap. Jake has evolved every team he has coached from no-hopers to contenders. Eddie was the coat of new paint on a Springbok house that Jake built.

    • Kendal

      In 2007 NZ lost to France because their Carter went off and they had no depth like the developing now with Barrett and no back up. The Lostralians showed that this yr. Eddie Jones was with Boks for 2 weeks. It’s the kick and chase ball game the Bulls introduced in 2007 that won in 2007, 2009, 2010. The whole world uses that now to extreme accuracy and we now trying to “run the ball”” like NZ and forgot how to kick accurately. I am Sharks supporter but honest about Bullls help

  • Wesley

    Spot on Jake, thanks for the insight. Allister, in my view, should shoulder some blame and face up, but those who he should face up to should also take the blame, right to the top structures, and ultimately the public. Yet what they say to their ultimate bosses – the public – are also kind of insulting. Words like “progress” and “proud”, and now even players speaking out against critics, are being used to defend it. Be honest, be humble and sometimes fall on your sword when required, because some of the public may not know everything, but we are damned sure the ultimate ones they should try and impress. Without it all there is no money and would become a amateur sport in SA. Ask an South African bowls player what they earn, if anything, compared to rugby players. Maybe these people in charge and playing should also get some perspective.

  • Peter

    Add Rugby as Chapter 19 to Jacques Paauw’s ” The Presidents Keepers”….an audit sounds like another talk shop/ blame game…..and as much as ” Toetie ” is a nice guy….we all know where the nice guys end up…..fall guy for the ineptitute and crack covering of those running the show.
    That SA rugby is NOW bypassing all known rules of employment smacks of arrogance / desparation…..
    My question is….who as an independent entity….totally unbiased and with any authority will conduct…pronounce….and implement a radical audit/ change at SA Rugby?

  • hopeful

    There’s no bitter undertone in this article and that’s why it can’t be contested…..facts are facts….our top level have treated this as their personal playground and the coaches are always the scapegoat….there’s no review on their performance and there’s no consequence for their decisions…

    AC isn’t the man for the job but neither is the management team above him….

  • Lloyd Pereira

    Bring back Jake White!

  • nick

    Spot on. Spot on.

    Jake used to do this auditing for a living as I recall. Ask Loffie about the ‘transparency’ of ‘winning ways’ at Ellis Park. smack bang in the middle of a Lions tour.
    The agenda’s and personal interests of every conceivable leech lurking around the game in SA just makes me want to cry.

    Whatever Jake says about his old sidekick, the fact remains he is a sub standard coach, not fit to coach the Boks.. The fact that he is still here after his first season says it all.

  • nick

    Is Franco Smith in charge of our back play?

  • nick

    Just Curious………..Juuus

  • Hennie du toit

    I agree with Jake I feel very sorry for Allister and dont want his job for no monies. I would like to know what is the problem with our rugby ?????

  • Alastair Campbell

    100% agree.SA Rugby’s management is appalling. They aren’t fit to manage a lemonade stand let alone a national treasure. It has always been thus but somehow we got away with it. Our conveyor belt of talent always managed to compensate for their ineptitude. But professionalism, the weakness of the rand and the innovative coaching techniques and personnel other countries are adopting mean we can’t coast by anymore. We need to grab every inch to be successful – and our management is being exposed in this type of fast moving, professional environment.

    No application for the top job? It’s an utter joke and a travesty. We, the public, have been accommodating of this mediocrity for far too long.

  • Christo

    I have boycotted Springbok rugby tests for 4 years now. Why do the public still support the tests? Stay away. Hit them where it hurts most. Reduce the revenue they get from test match tickets and sale of Springbok jerseys and flags etc. Then you will see them jump.

    • John Hamilton

      I agree wholeheartedly Christo

    • Faithnomore

      100 % the way to go.
      And chuck dstv on the scrap heap too.

  • Mike Olwagen

    The rot started at the top. Get rid of that Jurie Swart as a first step! This person was and never will be never good for rugby!

    Kick him unceremoniously into touch and let him disappear into insignificance.

    Well said Jake White!

  • Gerhard Els Gerhard Els

    Why is this still a question? This should have been done last year (2016) already!!!
    You know what is sad, when Heyneke Meyer was the coach after 25 games his success rate (71%) were higher than Jake White’s (68%) that win the world cup in 2007. Do you know the sad part he was send an open letter from ex-bok players and legends and ask to do the right thing and resign and you know he took the Boks to a world cup semi-final in 2015. Now my question to all you ex-boks and legends are as follow: How many more bad records do Allister Coetzee have to set up before you send him an open letter asking him to do the right thing and resign. How much longer do you want him to destroy the Springbok reputation and let the rest of the world laugh at us. Allister Coetzee could not even couch the Stormers or WP to a final successfully. Every one was thinking that when he left the Stormer and WP they are done for, but look how successful they were in 2017 with out him, they even win the Currie Cup (FINAL). So this is telling me only one thing of Allister he was riding on the backs of his assistant coaches at the Stormers and WP to build his CV. In my view his not even worthy the title assistant coach. Now you want to do an audit on everyone and try to find an excuse for Allister’s. Now one is to blame accept Allister himself. Last year he’s excuse was that the assistant couches didn’t have the experience and they were not appointed by him. Now that excuse is out by the door this year so what do the ex-boks and legends want to do, Yeah! right lets find some one else to pin Allister’s incompetency on. Yes before I forget. Allister please stop using the transformation issue as an excuse. All the players selected in the Springbok scout deserves to be there a specially the players of colour. They were selected on they performance and not colour. The only person that should have not been part of this scout were you.

    • Softinthemiddle

      There should be a new challenge to the “masters at SA Rugby”.

      Your Springbok coach picks his team and the Currie Cup Winning coach selects his team. Let them play a best of three games and lets see who the better coach is. Should the Springboks lose…then you have to let SA pick the coach.
      Let the public (serious rugby fans) subscribe to a franchise to vote on the selection of a coach. That way the SERIOUS SA Rugby fans will be the masters of their own sports destiny! Then we cannot complain that we were robbed in any way! If we love the game, then subscribe, support, select, stop moaning!

  • Barry Smith

    It is a very good article and he is correct about the
    Mismanagement at SA Rugby. BUT let’s not cloud the more immediate issue of Coetzee. A nice guy, but just not up to international standard. We need to be mindful of just how much a good international coach can do, without any change to administrative structures etc – is Eddie Jones not a prime example!

  • Gavin

    I believe that when SARU searched for a coach after letting Meyer go, they did not get a single world-class applicant. Remember how long it took them to decide on appointing AC? No coach worth his salt wants to be subject to conditions, clauses and agendas extraneous to rugby. Until the day comes that we select players on merit, we will remain a tier two rugby-playing nation. Rugby is not a numbers game, and certain back-line players were there to make up the numbers.

  • Wayne

    The running of SA rugby has for some time being the route cause of the ” business” failture with the only accountability being the promotion of racial segregation.
    As is often the case the little guys in this case players and coaches are made scap coats, suits and minister of sport remain unaccountable while keeping their jobs.

  • Softinthemiddle

    We can cry as much as we like, it won’t change a thing.SA rugby don’t read these articles and they would not change their minds in any way if they did. It is an “Old Boys Club” and they run it as they see fit. That is why friends get appointed. But…luckily Rugby is also a very lucrative business and as soon as the money runs out, they will wake up from their hangovers and start making changes. Just keep on boycotting the games and apparel…sooner or later the message will hit home!

  • NoHopeForSARugby

    I am glad that, although it is tough love, that Jake is standing up for something he believes in. Nick Mallet is also doing the same and they are coming up for RUGBY and not individuals. SA Rugby has no interest in good performances and or appointing the right people for the job. Even down to selecting players is all run by politics and favoritism in my honest opinion. Coaches and SA Rugby administration jobs should be advertised and granted to the best candidate, and the same at player level BUT no, it seems you have to be “in” to get a job at SA Rugby and if you’re liked by any of the guys up at SARU, you will probably get a spot and play in the green and gold.

    I believe there is no more honour, spirit and morals – to SARU its all about investors and driving your 2 million bucks car to your 20 million bucks home! If the Springboks was as important to SARU as it is to us as supporters, SARU would have done the right thing – take the knock and got the right people to do the job AND people to play the game.

    Then – one thing I hate to have read was the fact that the Boks are only planning to execute one game plan – Wow, that is is not the answer Jake, cause if that plan fails from the word go without a second plan – then the only one to blame is the coach. Players must be allowed to play freely within a game plan – I mean, that’s most likely why they have been selected to play in the national team in the first place. Right?

  • Sean

    Jake – even the coaches need mentoring & support and none is given by SA Rugby.
    Never was and still SA Rugby blows through R800 million a year with a mediocre performance at 6 on the global rugby standings.
    The toxic rot at SA Rugby is endemic.
    For example, every single individual at SA Rugby has a loyalty card for SAA, BA, Protea Hotels, Southern Sun, Avis, Budget who will at any and every opportunity fly, stay, drive to rack up points to use in the next 2 weeks for their families.
    That bill to SA Rugby is R400 million in T&A.
    10% of loyalty points is savings of R40m which could go to the bottom line, yet this is used as a grotesque “inducement” by Jurie Roux, Mark Alexander, Francis Davids, Andy Colquhoun & Basil Haddad to themselves benefit their agenda and personally profit from this scourge.
    This perpetuates a culture of rampant systemic fraud.
    Following in Jake’s recommendation in his article, there absolutely is a need for a full blown audit of SA Rugby management and its financials.
    It is a known fact that the financial irregularities and cover up at SA Rugby is better than the game of rugby played by the Boks on the field.

  • Naas.

    Hi Jake.

    One problem here with your column – you refer to the game plan and changing it during the game.
    Since Toetie took over there has NEVER BEEN a game plan.

    I don’t think he has the ability do operate on national and international level.

    So, get somebody else.

  • Charles

    @Jake White: I agree 100%.

    The entire foundation of how rugby is played and managed in SA needs to change, because we have more potential resources (people who can and should play the game) than the benchmark country of world rugby, New Zealand has.

    As long as rugby is not seen by ALL South Africans, i.e NOT a monopoly sport that can only be viewed on DSTV at about R900 a month, premium package, then the game will never truly be a national sport.
    Rugby MUST be televised nationally on SABC etc. in order for the population to be EXPOSED TO THE GAME and embrace it as sport for everyone.

    I have no doubt that we have a lot a great raw talent, from a pool of about +50 million people, that needs to be nurtured and developed into world class players.

    Regarding the politics of the game;
    The NZ government advances the game because the administrators UNDERSTAND what needs to be done across the board – from the boys to the men that lift the trophies. Their government\administration supports and advances the game, our government interferes and harms the game, because quite frankly they have no clue how to manage sport professionally.

    I honestly won’t be surprised if there are more people playing rugby in NZ then there are in SA.
    New Zealand rugby is all about PROMOTING THE GAME and developing players at grassroots level starting with 7 year-olds onward. They learn and eventually master the basics – run into space, pass, catch and then later the physical and more technical aspects of the game.

    Everything changes when ignorance is replaced with knowledge.
    Touch. Pause. Expose!

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