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.