Vata Ngobeni.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, like many who had come before him, would have known from the first day in his job that he was a day closer to being fired.

That is the reality of being a Bok coach and sipping from the poisoned chalice.

Some of Coetzee’s predecessors will tell you all about walking the plank from their first training session until that moment where they read in the media that they were no longer in charge of the national rugby team.

It is interesting to note that the likes of Nick Mallett, Jake White, Peter de Villiers and Heyneke Meyer were never really fired because of rugby reasons, but more of the many nonsensical reasons that have plunged South African rugby into a crisis many of the administrators are in denial about.

Mallett walked because of his comment about Test ticket prices, White all but gave his bosses the middle finger after winning the World Cup, De Villiers walked because of his loose tongue, while Meyer didn’t endure himself because of a school of thought that he was still stuck in the past.

But Coetzee is likely to buck the trend and be the first Bok coach in three terms to be fired for rugby reasons and the mediocre performances of the national team.

As much as he should not shoulder all the blame for last year’s dismal results by the Boks, which condemned them to their worst year in the history of their existence, all of what has transpired this year has Coetzee’s name all over it.

Most, if not all, of his demands would have been met by his employers this year in an effort to start on a clean slate and put behind the errors of their ways from the previous 12 months.

Even with the management that he wanted in Franco Smith as backline and attack coach and Brendan Venter as the defence consultant, and the various Springbok camps throughout the year, Coetzee has failed to emerge from under the dark cloud that has hung over his reign in the very same way the Grim Reaper symbolises death.

As far left-field as it was appointing Warren Whiteley as Springbok captain, it worked for the quick turnaround in fortunes that Coetzee and the Boks needed, but it was never going to be a long-term solution.

It was when Whiteley got injured and Coetzee opted for Eben Etzebeth than what had seemed like the obvious choice in Siya Kolisi that the first cracks began to appear in Coetzee’s grand plan.

Not only was Kolisi’s snub another step backwards for transformation, it left many questioning if Coetzee had a plan at all.

After whitewashing a mediocre French side in the June series and piling on the points against a not-so-strong Argentina outfit home and away, Coetzee fell victim to a false sense of belief that his team were improving.

Yes, they had improved from the lows of last year, but they had made little progress in catching up and matching the likes of the world champion All Blacks.

Allister Coetzee has had a better 2017 results-wise, but the Springboks have still not been convincing on the pitch. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

That was evident in how the Boks failed to adapt and finish off the Wallabies in their two drawn Tests, while the record defeat to the All Blacks in Albany just showed the gulf that exists between the Boks and the world’s leading side.

Again Coetzee talked up his team in the aftermath of the one-point defeat against the All Blacks at Newlands, but the Springboks’ conservative game plan was badly exposed in the record defeat against Ireland.

Nothing improved in the way the Boks played the game in the wins against France and Italy; instead, it has added more voices to the chorus of those calling for Coetzee’s head.

While he championed transformation during his time as Stormers and WP coach, to the disgust of many who control rugby in the country, he has done a complete turnaround in what seems like a lack of faith in black players at international level.

Even with a slightly bigger pool of black players to choose from, Coetzee has been reluctant in making the right decision of rewarding form and changing the face of Springbok rugby, which is now playing into the hands of his detractors.

Better results, a more appealing game plan that involves more running than kicking, and the rewarding of form and faith in black players would have certainly earned Coetzee a stay of execution until probably the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

But having failed on all of the above, it seems more likely than ever that the day Coetzee knew was inevitable is much closer than he would have anticipated, and it is all his own doing.


Pretoria News