Springbok Coach Departs: Tatta Toetie

Springbok Coach Departs
South Africa's rugby team, Springboks', head coach Allister Coetzee (L) and lock and captain Eben Etzebeth (R) give a press conference on November 16, 2017, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, ahead of a rugby union test match between France and South Africa on November 18. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Alister Coetzee, the Springbok coach departs the South African rugby scene in what can only be called acrimonious circumstances.

Springbok Coach Departs

After two months of very public jousting, SA Rugby and Coetzee ‘agreed’ to part ways. The rugby public should not be fooled by the polite and clinical press release that was issued on Friday 2 February 2018. SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux’s short statement can be heard in the clip below, which is courtesy of SA Rugby.

Coetzee’s Viewpoint

In a letter Coetzee sent to Roux and was subsequently leaked to the media, he was scathing of SA Rugby in just about every context. From his completely inadequate support structure in 2016, to the undesirable consultancy setup in 2017 which saw Franco Smith and Brendan Venter assisting Coetzee. He laid into the racial sensitivities in South Africa, claiming that he had been set up to fail and also publicly stated that he was a more competent coach than incoming Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus. This statement alone would have made Coetzee’s further role as Springbok coach untenable.

Was This Avoidable?

This situation was definitely avoidable, in two ways. Firstly, SA Rugby, although struggling financially, could have provided Coetzee with a lot stronger support team. The talented yet grossly inexperienced Mzwandile Stick should never have been exposed to Test rugby just a few years into his coaching career is a prime example. Secondly, it has to be considered if Coetzee was ever the best choice in the first place. Last Word on Rugby asked this question in April 2016 when Coetzee was appointed. His record at the Stormers did not inspire the confidence required to make this appointment the sensible one.

This scenario has already played itself out, but Coetzee could have exited nobly and taken the moral high ground by resigning due to all the roadblocks he claimed to have experienced. Grimly hanging on places question marks over his claims.

SA Rugby’s Role

As with most employer/employee performance disputes, the employer generally holds the more powerful hand. SA Rugby had (correctly) decided it was time to move on from Coetzee. What we will probably never see and never happen is the relevant role players in SA Rugby’s management taking some responsibility for the fiasco that was Springbok rugby over the last two years.

The post was never advertised. Who reviewed Coetzee’s plan to be a successful Springbok coach? What was the support structure envisaged in that plan? Was that plan ever submitted? Someone at SA Rugby has probably dodged a bullet by not being held accountable for what has played itself out.

What of the Springboks Now?

Springbok rugby will move on. There is no immediate clarity as to what the coaching structure will look like, but it can be assumed that Rassie Erasmus will be calling the shots. Jacques Nienaber has been at Erasmus’ side for many years and we can safely assume that he will be looking after the Springbok defense. Former Munster conditioning coach Aled Walters has the inside track to assume the same role within the Springbok setup.

This is a messy affair that no South African rugby fan can take any joy out of. The only hope is that lessons have been learned from this disgraceful affair.

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