DURBAN – There have been books written about the “Poisoned Chalice” accepted by Springbok rugby coaches since readmission in 1992 that have almost always resulted in the coach’s tenure dying a horrible death.
Allister Coetzee is the latest to have sipped from a green-and-gold chalice that might as well have contained the hemlock that killed the great Greek philosopher Socrates.
Since 1992, not one Springbok coach has left his position on his own terms.
It is incredible when you take into account that the world’s runaway leaders in rugby, New Zealand, have a succession plan in place that has coaches continue for more than one four-year term and then hand over to a groomed assistant.
Ian McIntosh was the coach in 1993 and 1994, but he was flippantly sacked by then-Saru boss Louis Luyt after the Boks had lost a series in New Zealand in 1994.
Mac famously described his nonchalant sacking by Luyt as a gallows humour interpretation of the World War 2 medal, the DCM – “Don’t Come Monday”.
Kitch Christie did an ambulance job ahead of the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, with miraculous results, but he was a sick man and it was reported that while he was in a hospital bed, he was told by Saru officials that his Bok coaching days were over.
André Markgraaff succeeded Christie as the game went into the professional era and the Boks did not have the best results, especially against arch foes New Zealand.
But results did not matter when Markgraaff was infamously stitched up by two of his Griquas players, the Bester brothers, who recorded him making racist comments.
Carel du Plessis – a brilliant wing in his day as a player for both Western Province and the Springboks – was appointed in a rash decision by Luyt.
But it was soon clear that his rank inexperience as a coach at any level would count against him, and the Boks suffered the ignominy of losing to the 1997 British and Irish Lions tourists.
Nick Mallett was a popular choice as the next Springbok coach, and he should always be remembered for taking the Boks to a world record-equalling 17 Test wins in a row against major opposition, which was rewarded with the winning of the 1998 Tri-Nations title.
But the hemlock in the chalice also took its toll on Mallett, and for reasons that to this day he cannot explain, he dropped highly-popular captain Gary Teichmann a few months before the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
The Boks did well to eventually place third in a World Cup they should have won, given they were the form team six months ahead of the event.
Not long after, Mallett was sacked after a reporter recorded him saying that ticket prices for Springbok matches were “way too high”.
Harry Viljoen? The highly successful businessman tried to employ tactics that had worked for him in industry, but he did not have the player tools to work with, and after a series of failures, he walked away.
Rudolf Straeuli, who had enjoyed success with the Sharks, stepped up, but it was a time when the Boks simply did not have a core of good players and the 2003 World Cup was a disaster.
Enter Jake White. He was almost fired on a number of occasions before taking the Boks to World Cup glory in 2007. But he had made too many enemies at Saru and they refused to renew his contract.
Peter de Villiers came from nowhere to take over a Bok team that was at the height of its power.
They beat the touring Lions, they won another Tri-Nations title, but after their failure at the 2011 World Cup, De Villiers was shown the door.
Heyneke Meyer proved to be a highly passionate Bok coach, but despite his team finishing third at the 2015 World Cup, having lost by just two points in the semi-final to the All Blacks, he was fired.
Which brought Allister to the Boks... the less said about his record, the better.