Springbok coach Allister Coetzee talks to his players. Photo: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

JOHANNESBURG - "There’s a general belief within SA Rugby that the plan had always been to replace Heyneke Meyer with Rassie (Erasmus),” read the letter from now-former Springbok coach Allister Coetzee to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“But SA Rugby,” he continues, “wanted to avoid any controversy regarding transformation and a strategy was put in place to use my appointment to disguise their ultimate goal of putting Rassie in the role. 

“A strategy was developed to use me as a coloured person to conceal the end goal - by offering me the job as Bok coach - but to not equip me with the necessary resources to adequately perform my tasks. It would lead to me vacating my position earlier in order for Rassie to eventually be appointed.

“This strategy is not in line with SA Rugby’s transformation mandate. It’s distasteful, to say the least, to use me as a black South African as a pawn in such an untenable manner.”

And, as reported by SA Rugby Magazine, Coetzee would further charge that Erasmus is “less competent” than him.

There is a part of me that agrees with Coetzee’s sentiments, that he was indeed double-crossed, hoodwinked, swindled and two-timed by this country’s rugby bosses in a caper of mischievous backroom dealings, under the counter trading and hoodlum high-jinx winking between fedora wearing agents of SA Rugby.

Maybe, just maybe, he was setup to fail, the conspiracist within me whispers. But why would SA Rugby devalue and endanger their most important brand, the Springboks, with such shenanigans, the higher thought process in the cerebral cortex rebutts.

They could do so through mismanagement and stupidity, yes, but to consciously sabotage the Boks and its management team seems a desperate accusation of a desperate man facing a desperately high hanging guillotine. 

Perhaps Coetzee could make such an argument in his first year as Boks coach, but certainly not after the second.

Truth be told, Coetzee’s win ratio of 43 percent is a poor reflection of what any Springbok team should be able to achieve and only John Williams (20 percent), Ian McIntosh (33 percent) and Carel du Plessis (37 percent) have worse records post isolation.

I won’t even begin to summarise the record-breaking defeats or embarrassing losses that have occurred under Coetzee’s watch, so well documented and discussed are they.

There is one statement I can wholeheartedly agree on with Coetzee: Erasmus is less competent than he, and if not less, then at least equally competent, which doesn’t favour the messianic driven narrative being evangelized by some regarding Saru’s newfangled Director of Rugby.

Here, the statistics don’t lie. As a coach Erasmus won the Currie Cup once, in 2005, while Coetzee did so twice in 2012 and 2014. 

In this regard, they are on equal domestic footing as Johan Ackermann in 2016, the much heralded John Mitchell in 2011 and more recently Robert du Preez.

At an international provincial level, Erasmus achieved very little in Super Rugby, albeit on a limited budget and with a new franchise in the Cheetahs. 

When he moved to Munster, after stints at the Stormers and Saru in administrative positions, he succeeded in finishing second in the then Pro12 in 2016.

Allister, meanwhile, achieved similar honours by reaching the Super Rugby final in 2010. It is true that Coetzee enjoyed success at international level as an assistant to Jake White during his Bok tenure and helped with the 2007 Rugby World Cup triumph, but perhaps what is true of players lacking the skills and discipline to make a step up to Test level, it is also true of Coetzee as a coach.

To my mind, Coetzee and Erasmus are two figures on different sides of the same coin, and we, as rugby supporters, must hope for a better showing in the future if Erasmus is to become overlord of the Springboks.

But I, for one, won’t be setting my expectations too high.


The Star

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