Our rugby’s day of reckoning has come

Keba Mothoagae

If Allister Coetzee’s 18 months at the helm of the Springboks could be equated to a boxing match, the referee has allowed our beating to go on for far too long.

The humiliation of a record defeat against Ireland last Saturday was a southpaw to the guts, while the 2023 Rugby World Cup being awarded to bid rivals France landed an uppercut to the jaw that has floored us all. A powerful combo to an already fragile Saffa psyche!

In the wake of the Dublin debacle, I planned on writing a follow-up to my excoriation of Allister Coetzee and his cohorts, but enough column space has already been dedicated to this act in the last few days.

As such, Coetzee’s race is run and it’s time for his bosses at SARU to show him and his assistants the door. As for the players, they should be ashamed of their efforts for most of his tenure, even if it is patently clear that their mentor did not have a plan to begin with. Coetzee’s stint is just the symptom of a disease that has put our rugby in ICU.

The reaction by South Africans to the bid announcement was nothing short of remarkable. When World Rugby recommended the country as a preferred candidate, we were split. And the chasm has only widened since the announcement as those pushing agendas on both sides of the debate tear at one another’s throat. Such was the fallout!

A noticeable sentiment at home and abroad in the lead-up to the vote was that SA Rugby needed the vote to go its way because the injection of funds and interest would serve as a springboard to get its house in order.

Are you kidding? Why do you need to host the World Cup to pull yourself together when you should already be doing so, regardless?

In my opinion, this is where our priorities are wrong as a country. We have proven time and again that we are an excellent host of sports tournaments, but what is currently wrong within our sports is just a microcosm of the serious challenges of governance we face as a nation – Zuptanomics – and hosting tournaments merely papers over the cracks.

Thankfully, with the World Cup gone, our rugby bosses have nothing to hide behind in a social and political climate where gatvol South Africans are increasingly starting to revolt in righteous anger and frustration. As far as I am concerned, our rugby is run like a spaza shop, but I know spaza shop owners who would take offence and dispute this unfavourable comparison!

Our rugby’s day of reckoning has come. As always, democracy is great concept until the vote doesn’t go your way. Losing the bid was poetic – the French and Irish bidders may have played us off the ball at times, but whatever concerns there were about South Africa as a host were valid.

We should now dust ourselves off and move forward with the dignity displayed by our bid team, coupled with renewed vigour to self-correct before it’s too late. There are bigger fish to fry, clearly.

In a thinly-veiled jab conflating our rugby’s mediocrity on and off the pitch, an Irish publication came up with this pearl of a headline, “Get Back In Your Boks”. The courtesy does not extend to you, “In your face”.

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- Keba Mothoagae

Let's chat

  • Coenraad Geldenhuys

    Allister Coetzee should have been dismissed by the the end of 2016. Giving him another year was a huge mistake. This makes it nearly impossible for the Boks to be competitive in the 2019 world cup.

    • Grant

      Perhaps SA Rugby were holding out for Rassie so they kept AC for one more year to get their preferred choice at the helm of the national team? I certainly hope that is the case.

      A little side note, Jake White in 2006 lost heavily to England and almost got sacked, flew all the way to SA in the build up week of another test. He was reprimanded and asked to explain the loss, only to then go on to win the WC in 2007 (thanks to Mr Eddie Jones). Why has Coetzee not had to answer to similar scrutiny from SA Rugby? Why has Coetzee been able to continue with the full backing of the rugby administrators?

      • Sharky

        I think there are a bunch of factors, The top two being: Jake is a pale male and he is outspoken in his opinions and is uncompromising in his approach. He did take shit and was willing to stand up for what he believed was best for the Boks. AC is not pale and is a “nice guy” – maybe a little less likely to open a can of whip-ass tell his bosses how it has to be. Case in point – he accepted the appointment of Stick as an assistant last year where White would definitely not have.

        • Arch Rautenbach

          That’s very true. Its a widely known fact that White, like Nick Mallet, wasn’t popular under administrators. Only difference is that White gave them a reason to fire him just before a World cup (2006 EOYT) where Nick gave them a reason far away from a World Cup (beginning of 2001 June series.)

          • Sharky

            I don’t know about the 2006 EOYT giving SARU a reason to fire White, but the 49-0 drubbing at the hands of Oz in the 2006 Tri-Nations was definitely a reason. I still remember that game! It was horrible!!

            As for Mallet, I reckon when he fired Teichmann and screwed with a winning team so close to a RWC the writing was definitely on the wall for him. But Mallet is not the type of guy who would acknowledge that he ever made a mistake there.

  • LionsDen

    Sorry to say, but as long as Allister is insrtucted on who or what to pick we are on a hiding second to none.
    It is so obvious even though he will deny it, he is always busy with a balancing act rather than picking a team on merit !!!

    • Grant

      Let’s be honest for a second, nobody is twisting Coetzees arm to select the likes of Jesse Kriel, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje? These guys have failed to convince anyone outside of AC. Opposition look at our backline and lick their lips. Look at every match this year how the opposition have tried everything to get the ball wide as they know our weaknesses.

      No, the problem is Coetzee, he has the final say in selections. Why continue with Kriel at 13 when we have players who have had better season than him? Why continue with Andries Coetzee when we have better players. Lukhanyo Am, Warrick Gellant, even Curwin Bosch would be better than the current crop. Pick them and if they fail then at least you can say you tried the IN FORM players. I am gutted Nkosi got injured, he would have been so much better than Skosan. Pace means little when you don’t have the desire and never give up attitude. Also, the continued lack of a specialist in form inside centre is confusing and brain dead. Frans Steyn is just down the road and should be playing 12 for the boks in the next WC.

      • Sharky

        Totally agree! We are not short of SA passport-holding world-beating players, it’s just that AC doesn’t seem to want to select them! Ignoring injuries my Bok team would be:

        1) Steven Kitshoff
        2) Malcolm Marx
        3) Coenie Oosthuizen (Wilco Louw)
        4) Eben Etzebeth
        5) Pieter-Steph du Tiot (Lodewyk de Jager)
        6) Marcel Coetzee (Francois Louw)
        7) Siya Kolisi
        8) Warren Whiteley (Duane Vermeulen)
        9) Cobus Reinach
        10) Patrick Lambie (Handre Pollard)
        11) S’bu Nkosi (Courtnall Skosan)
        12) Frans Steyn
        13) Lukhanyo Am
        14) Ruan Combrinck (Makazole Mapimpi)
        15) Warrick Gelant

        16) Bismark Du Plessis
        17) Tendai Mtawarira
        18) Wilco Louw (Vincent Koch)
        19) Lodewyk de Jager (Franco Mostert)
        20) Jean-Luc Du Preez (Dan Du Preez)
        21) Ruan Pienaar
        22) Handre Pollard
        23) Ruan Janse van Rensburg

        Considering injuries my team would be:

        1) Steven Kitshoff
        2) Malcolm Marx
        3) Wilco Louw
        4) Eben Etzebeth
        5) Lodewyk de Jager
        6) Francois Louw
        7) Siya Kolisi
        8) Duane Vermeulen
        9) Cobus Reinach
        10) Handre Pollard
        11) Courtnall Skosan
        12) Frans Steyn
        13) Lukhanyo Am
        14) Makazole Mapimpi
        15) Warrick Gelant

        16) Bismark Du Plessis
        17) Tendai Mtawarira
        18) Vincent Koch
        19) Franco Mostert
        20) Dan Du Preez
        21) Ruan Pienaar
        22) Handre Pollard
        23) Ruan Janse van Rensburg

        IMHO a good mix of promising, form and experience.

  • Shane

    I wish this were true. That Alister Coetzee was going to leave the Bok setup. That we would somehow convince Johan Ackerman to come back.
    Maybe even Jake White who won the World Cup and then got sacked. The AB’s kept their coach after they won and then won the second one in a row.
    We need a proven coach now. Maybe Nick Mallet even – his team went for the record number of consecutive wins.
    Or the current Bulls Coach, John Mitchell. He took a Lions team from nowhere to win the Currie Cup in 2011 and pave the way for the current crop of Ackerman’s stars.
    Just no more “taking chances” with clueless lakhees. This country has suffered enough.
    With Mugabe under house arrest, Zuma getting voted out in December we need one more guy to leave.
    Please let it be Alister.

    • GrAHAM wERNER

      The current political unrest situation in our country is to blame Yes we need a new coach but the same will happen going forward,We will not recover our pride and glory until politics gets gets out of our sport.Not only rugby,We did not get the word cup because our country is unsafe.We will be isolated like we were under the apartheid government.Visitors from overseas are targeted.

    • Maxwell

      What about Snorman. He knows how to rattle AB. Mcall said it himself.

    • Arch Rautenbach

      Just a correction on what you said. New Zealand won 2011 under Graham Henry, who resigned after the world cup. Steve Hansen took over and won it in 2015 and was set to resign after the British and Irish Lions tour, because he said the All Blacks needed fresh thinking. But new Zealand begged him to stay on until the 2019 world cup, so he agreed and only Wayne Smith resigned after the tour. But I do agree with you that we need a fresh start and I am hoping that Rassie brings that in when he finally arrives.

      • Shane

        Thanks – My mistake…
        It’s like a nightmare; Hansen was assistant when they won in 2011… seems like he’s been there forever.
        Do you have confidence in Rassie?
        Honestly anything’s better than what we have now.

        • Arch Rautenbach

          Yes he was there. But that is how the All Blacks have worked since 2004 when Henry took over, and when Hansen retires, someone that is already part of the All Black coaching group will most probably take over. They do it like that to keep the All Blacks from loosing momentum and to keep from a new coach coming in and changing too many things. Well I have hope in Rassie. I just wrote a comment on that, but it will all depend on if he is willing to be the bad guy and make the difficult decisions.

  • Arch Rautenbach

    Yes, AC must go. Yes the assistants aren’t the best and yes, the players should be ashamed. But how do we fix the problem? That’s the one thing I haven’t read anybody ask. A realistic plan to solving the growing problem that is the Springboks. All solution you hear is fire AC. What then? Appoint Johan Ackermann I hear you cry. Okay what then? That won’t get the players better conditioned. That won’t get their fitness level up. That won’t help their skill levels. Their handling will still be poor and they will still kick aimlessly instead of running into space. What we need is better coaches all round. Rassie is coming in as the director of rugby for the whole of South African Rugby and to be honest, he has some really tough choices to make. He has to set standards that he has to force unions to adhere to, because lets be honest. The players can’t get to Springbok level and need to have skills and fitness work done. It should already have been done by then. At union level. So Rassie has to set standard that the unions need to adhere to and if they don’t, he cuts funding. That’s the harsh reality. The unions are selfish, so if they don’t want to place the Springboks first, cut their funding. SARU funds the unions well every year, and that’s the only reason they still operate even though stadiums have run dry most of the year. Cut their money and they will do anything and everything you ask of them. Including hiring and firing whoever you say.

    • Grant

      Excellent point, us arm chair critics only see one side of the coin and have emotional responses to the losses. “Fire XYZ and everything will be peachy again”. The problems are much deeper than just the head coach, The Stormers have done the right thing getting a kiwi skills expert in, although we didn’t see a great improvement, I think next season will tell. Every team needs to follow suit.

      I was hopeful after all the coaching indabas and training camps and fitness camps etc. I really thought we would improve if only a bit. But no improvement after all the planning. There is a big problem in SA Rugby and I really really hope Rassie can fix it. But then again, wasn’t he in the same position before he went to Munster? What has changed? His Salary or the promise of more power to actually change SA Rugby?

      • Arch Rautenbach

        When you listen to people on the inside of SARU, Rassie had a very good plan to turn around things and get the unions to work toward bettering the Springboks. He and Heyneke Meyer worked together on it. But after Meyer couldn’t get the unions to work with him on the plan, and SARU appointing Coetzee the next head coach, he lost hope in his plans. It was just a coincidence that Munster was coach shopping at that point. He sent his CV and got the job. As far as the inside people know, that plan is still at SARU, but will take some drastic measures to implement.

  • Maxwell

    Its time for Snorman. It blows my mind that Victor,John , Fourie and kie isnt recommending him. Doesnt make sense

  • Shane

    Ok, I hear you…
    So what does one coach have that another does not?
    What was the difference between our narrow loss to the AB’s and the drubbing that we got in NZ?
    What makes Eben come out and run through opponents and then decide to be a nervous wreck in the next game.
    Here’s a (possible) answer: The Ability to Motivate. The ability to make a man go out and fight for his country when the crowd is baying for his blood. To change the mentality of the team so that they run out confident like they own the place and trust their game(plans) will get them there.
    Let us for a second forget the technical drills, game-plans, and intensity on getting through to the team.
    Alister is simply not a good enough leader.

  • Geoff

    The Zimbabweans are telling Mugabe to go but he doesn’t listen. The same thing applies to AC. How many more games will we lose before he or the powers at SARU get the message?

    • Maxwell

      AC isnt in same shoes as Mugabe. The powers of SARU and their sponsors are.

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