Springbok coach Allister Coetzee's future at the helm is in doubt. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

If SA Rugby have any sense of Christmas cheer, they will greet Allister Coetzee with his sincere thanks letter at OR Tambo International and then set about finding the best man to start the now urgent rebuilding of South African rugby.

Not the best man for politicians. Not the best man for sponsors, or for heritage or for any other paraphernalia that usually sully the HR waters when it comes to top end recruitment in South African sport.

If we put aside the supposed gloss of a couple of wins on the end of year tour, the stark reality is that Springbok rugby currently sits at its lowest abyss since we won the World Cup.

The once fiercely proud reputation is in tatters, the selection process is a lottery, and the sense of pride in the Bok jersey has diminished to the point that some players are happy to call time on international duty, and rather thrive on highly-paid obscurity in international club rugby.

Not all of these things are the fault of Coetzee, but the former Western Province minder has proved that old adage quite true. Not every man is meant to be a master. Some are very good at being the second in command, their influence confined to quiet corners away from the unflinching glare of the public and the media.

Coetzee lied at his interview, and he has exposed those shallow promises through two years of famine. The development he promised to deliver has not materialised. A symbol of his false dawn is the name Garth April, who he happily paraded as “good enough, old enough” in his first squad.

April has taken his own off-ramps on the way to a cul-de-sac of confusion, but Coetzee’s ringing endorsement must surely have turned his head. April, like so many players of colour in Coetzee’s “rainbow nation blueprint”, was merely a pawn. He was placed there to look the part, but he and so many others were then culled without a moment’s pause, as Coetzee chucked transformation to the wind, and resorted to tried and well-rusted options.

If we are brutally honest, Coetzee has done less for transformation than his predecessor, Heyneke Meyer. That alone is staggering, considering the extra demands that were placed on him to make opportunities part of his mandate.

At least Meyer once admitted that he tends to opt for players that he trusts (make of that what you will), whereas Coetzee just sat there and lied to us with a straight face. He has taken several players to be well remunerated tackle bag operators on tours around the world, all the time telling us - and them - how much he rated their abilities.

If SA rugby is to rise from the ashes and challenge England next year, be a factor in the Rugby Championship, and then beyond to the 2019 World Cup, they need an accountable man at the helm.

The factions that exist within the South African game mean anyone from within would be viewed with suspicion from some quarter. SA rugby is too tribal to fully stand behind a man from within.

Instead of Jurie Roux and Co lining their pockets with mysterious millions, it is time for South African rugby to pay top dollar for a man from the Long White Cloud, and free him to work his magic. Allow him to tear up the playbook - if one exists - and then lay his own foundations.

It is time for SA rugby to stop bluffing itself, and admit that things are worse than they have ever been. The first step to recovery is acknowledging mistakes, and Coetzee’s tenure is one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the SA game.

Coetzee has shown that he is out of his depth, drowning under the weight of national responsibility, often explaining away his car crashes with misplaced optimism. Delusion, even. It is time to throw him a lifeline and hire ourselves a Kiwi lifesaver.

If not now, then the Boks will be truly sunk.


Sunday Tribune

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