Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says South Africans are “thumb-sucking” if they believe that South Africa is the best rugby nation in the world.
Coetzee was speaking on the first day of the two-day coaching indaba hosted by Saru in Cape Town yesterday, where a number of rugby figures gathered to try and find a solution to the SA rugby crisis.
The Boks have had a nightmare year, losing five out of nine Tests including defeats to Ireland and Argentina, and a record 57-15 hiding at the hands of the All Blacks.
Some of the guests at the indaba included the Springbok coaching staff, the coaches of the six Super Rugby franchises and chief executives, as well as former Bok coaches Carel du Plessis, Ian McIntosh and Rudolf Straeuli.
Former Bok skippers John Smit and Gary Teichmann, ex-wings Ashwin Willemse and Stefan Terblanche were also present, while scrum guru Balie Swart and retired referee Jonathan Kaplan also attended.
At the indaba, facilitated by Brendan Venter and Pieter Kruger, Coetzee emphasised the importance of a national strategy between Super Rugby coaches and the Boks.
“I think we are living in our own little kingdoms, and we are hoping, and we are thumb-sucking, that we are the best rugby nation in world rugby,” Coetzee said.
“I would like to take a look at what we’d like to get out of our indaba, just the vision – striving for rugby excellence and continuous improvement, enabling us to become the top rugby nation. We are not the top rugby nation.
“There must be alignment between the Springboks and the Super Rugby coaches, and vice versa, in identifying technical shortcomings that impact on the performances of all our teams. It is also important to discuss and share contemporary trends, opportunities and ultimately a common philosophy so that we can ensure continuous improvement and have an agreement on how to identify and to address these shortcomings.”
Because players spend great periods with their franchises and roughly only 18 weeks with the national team, Coetzee elaborated on the importance of cohesion between Super Rugby coaches and the Boks.
“How long does it take to form a habit? How long does it take to form a skill, or implement a skill under pressure? Therefore, alignment is important. We cannot be successful without you guys sitting here,” he said.
“When our Super Rugby teams do well, look at our ranking as a national team. I was part of the 2007 era, where we won the World Cup and had 22 of the 31 players from the two Super Rugby finalist teams (Bulls and Sharks). It’s a clear parallel – Super Rugby, franchises, Springboks, we have to work hand in glove. So for me, the national (team) and franchises cannot operate in isolation, we can’t. A national rugby strategy is not about dictating game plans to any team.
“Different coaches have different styles – whether you play off (Nos) 9 or 10, or you want to attack or whatever, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about a national strategy and equipping our players to adapt to any type of game plan that coaches want to play. If he has the passing skill as a forward, then he can play off nine and still make that tip pass and still make the pass behind the other forward’s backs.”
Interim Saru president Mark Alexander, who opened the proceedings, said he hoped that the indaba would be the beginning of a new chapter in SA rugby. “Hopefully in a few years’ time we will look back at this indaba with a sense of achievement, knowing that this was where the new direction was forged, this was the turning point for South African rugby, this is where we adopted our shared winning mindset,” he said.