BREAKING: Allister Coetzee survives axe and stays on as Springbok coach
In the end SA Rugby will choose the soft option by retaining Springbok coach Allister Coetzee for the immediate future following a review process of his first year in charge.
A well-placed source confirmed to Times Media on Wednesday that Coetzee was to stay in the job – at least until after the June series against France – after weeks of reviews and speculation.
The source indicated that there was a split about whether to retain Coetzee or not. SA Rugby had not officially confirmed the outcome by the time of going to print.
How the governing body came to the conclusion that a 33 per cent winning ratio, a non-existent gameplan, poor selections, sloppy defence and a decaying team culture that led to perhaps the most embarrassing season in Bok history, were reasons to keep the coach on, remain unclear for now.
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But stay on he will, although the reprieve may be short-lived if the Boks fail against France. Which just adds to the confusion.
SA Rugby will also try to shuffle the deck chairs behind the coach by beefing up the back room staff.
It appears that backline coach Mzwandile Stick will be sidelined but not necessarily sacked – as if his limited input was the reason the Boks were so poor in 2016 – with Cheetahs coach Franco Smith taking over backline duties. Stick may have been out of his depth but laying the blame at his door is scapegoating at its worst.
It appears that SA Rugby came under pressure from the sports ministry to retain Coetzee, because Times Media has reliably learnt that Rassie Erasmus had been coyly courted as time was running out to trigger his escape clause in his Munster contract.
How Coetzee will feel knowing SA Rugby were seeking alternatives is anyone’s guess, but not highly motivated or positive would be a good guess.
To add further confusion to the situation the source indicated that there would be a role for respected coach Brendan Venter to assist Coetzee.
This annus may be even more horribilis for SA rugby After a difficult 2016, things can't get any worse for South African rugby in 2017 - or could they?
But on Monday the Italian Rugby Federation confirmed that Venter would assist them until the 2019 World Cup. Venter did not respond to queries about his involvement.
So the Boks will stumble into a new season with the coach vowing to change things and for results to improve. And they might, but improving on a 33 per cent winning ratio shouldn’t be all that difficult.
Last year, in the immediate aftermath SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said the organisation had put a target of a 75 per cent winning ratio for the Springboks under Coetzee. Even if the Boks win all of their Tests in 2017, they would only climb to a 66 per cent winning ratio under Coetzee. And they aren't going to win all their matches.
There was no word on whether SA Rugby have revised that number downward, but considering Coetzee has survived on his current performance, they must have. Mediocrity is the new target for SA Rugby.
- TMG Digital