PRETORIA - Embattled Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has hit out at his detractors who have suggested that he has turned his back on black players, saying that he won’t window dress for the sake it.
Coetzee has come under fire this year for not showing enough faith in the black players within the Springbok squad, starting from the missed golden and historic opportunity of making Siya Kolisi the first black Springbok captain after the injury to Warren Whiteley in June, to only having three players of colour in his starting line-up against Wales on Saturday.
Kolisi had been seen as the logical replacement for Whiteley after having led the Stormers with aplomb in Super Rugby and has also enjoyed his best season yet in the Springbok jersey and cementing his permanent spot in the loose trio.
Furthermore, Coetzee has gone as far as playing black players out of position with the most recent being fullback Warrick Gelant starting on the wing, while scrumhalf Rudy Paige is yet to be afforded a starting berth this year even though incumbent Ross Cronje is clearly struggling with his game.
On Saturday, Coetzee came in for some heavy criticism for handing centre Lukhanyo Am less than a handful of minutes, while replacements Bongi Mbonambi, Uzair Cassiem and Elton Jantjies were not afforded sufficient time off the bench to make a meaningful and game changing contribution to proceedings.
The insistence to play Pieter-Steph du Toit out of position at flank instead of lock has also been questioned, especially with Oupa Mohoje and Uzair Cassiem on tour and both having played at number seven and eight for the Cheetahs in Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions.
Coetzee defended himself, claiming that the accusations are nothing but a perception and that he has a plan in place that will see the Springboks meet their 50 percent transformation targets by the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“That’s a perception,” said a visibly irate Coetzee upon the team’s arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport yesterday.
“Lukhanyo Am unfortunately was injured for most of the year, Siya (Kolisi) had to go back home (on paternity leave during the tour) and Beast (Mtawarira) was out with an injury, too.
“The big thing is that I’m not sitting with these players for six months where I can play in a competition and do it proper.” “Look, I am not someone for window dressing. “I don’t window dress.
“If you want to window dress then, yes, you will play a guy and then put him and play another guy.
“I’m here for succession planning and when these players rock up at World Cup 2019 they are at their best and the right players have been given the opportunity at the right time,” said Coetzee.
During his tenure as Stormers coach, Coetzee was praised for his progress on transformation.