South African rugby stakeholders are “thumb-sucking and living in our own little kingdoms” in thinking that we are the best rugby nation in the world, according to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
And one of the ways the Boks – and South African rugby as a whole – can get back on track is to ensure that the six Super Rugby teams are successful.
Coetzee was speaking at the start of SA Rugby’s coaching indaba in Newlands on Wednesday, where a number of leading figures in the game have gathered to try to find solutions in revitalising the sport in the country.
While Coetzee had first mentioned the possibility of the indaba when he visited the franchises at the start of his tenure, the interest has been heightened following the 57-15 defeat to the All Blacks in Durban on October 8, which left Coetzee with a record of four wins in nine Tests this year.
The Bok coaching staff, the six SA Super Rugby franchise coaches and chief executives were present, as well as former Bok bosses Carel du Plessis, Ian McIntosh, Rudolf Straeuli (also the Lions CEO), ex-captains John Smit and Gary Teichmann (also the Sharks CEO), former wings Ashwin Willemse and Stefan Terblanche and midfielder Brendan Venter (who is one of the facilitators), scrum guru Balie Swart, retired referee Jonathan Kaplan, and the Saru rugby department staff such as Louis Koen and Chean Roux.
In his opening address on Wednesday, Coetzee was adamant that there needs to be a greater sharing of ideas between the national coaches and franchises, while transformation “is a reality that we all bought into”.
“When I started with the interventions at the beginning of the year – when I visited the unions – I mentioned the indaba. I mentioned that we need to get together and we need to speak about it, whether my record or win percentage was nine out of nine, it was still a necessity to be together in a format like this, and make sure that we have a great reality check,” the Bok coach said.
“Because 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.
“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 – become – the top rugby nation. We aren’t, we are not the top rugby nation.”
Coetzee said the fact that Springbok players spend around 18 weeks with the national team per year, and the rest with their franchise/province, made it crucial for the Super Rugby teams to embrace a “national strategy” overall.
“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.
“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 (set-up) 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 nine 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 back.”