Why a Bok coach falling out with his bosses is one of life’s guarantees

29 January 2018 - 16:59
By Craig Ray
SA Rugby seem to be unable to buy Allister Coetzee out of the remainder of his contract that expires in 2019.
Image: GETTY IMAGES SA Rugby seem to be unable to buy Allister Coetzee out of the remainder of his contract that expires in 2019.

Death‚ taxes and a Springbok coach falling out with his bosses are three of life’s guarantees.

And last week the final remnants of a ‘relationship’ between Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and his bosses crumbled under the weight of 19-page letter that obliterated any bridges that might remain.

Coetzee addressed the letter to CEO Jurie Roux and claimed to have been ‘set up to fail’‚ somehow implying his race was also a factor in receiving less support.

I have full notebooks and hours of recorded conversations of former Springbok coaches claiming that SA Rugby set them up to fail when the fallout eventually happened.

It goes with the territory.

At least most of those coaches sported a winning ratio in excess of 60% and also returned some silverware. Coetzee’s Boks have won 11 of 25 Tests (44%) and unsurprisingly have taken home no silverware.

Let’s not forget the primary task of the Springbok coach – to win Tests. Coetzee does not address this at all in his letter.

Jake White won a World Cup and was effectively fired when he was asked to reapply for his job and refused on the basis that the Webb Ellis Cup stood in SA Rugby’s cabinet.

Peter de Villiers took the Boks to world number one in 2009 and was eventually fired after losing a World Cup quarterfinal to the most dubious refereeing seen at a major sporting event.

The list goes on. Nick Mallet went down for because he never took a backwards step with his bosses and openly criticised them. Heyneke Meyer’s team lost a World Cup semi-final by two points to the greatest All Black team of all time and was axed and Harry Viljoen and Rudolf Straeuli fell out with HQ over poor results before their contracts expired.

All those coaches share a belief that they were undermined by the committees and elected officials above them. And at times they were‚ just as Coetzee had to struggle within the structural failings of SA Rugby.

Yet after two years of lows for the Springboks‚ Coetzee takes no accountability for any setbacks the Boks suffered – record losses to the All Blacks and Ireland‚ to a first ever defeat against Italy are ignored. The blame is all placed elsewhere.

He takes aim at lack of planning time‚ no pre-season camps in 2016‚ not being able to choose his own management staff‚ too many overseas-based players and select his own staff.

But the evidence doesn’t agree.

It’s true that Coetzee was appointed late and that he only handpicked forward’s coach Matthew Proudfoot when he negotiated the position.

Predecessor Meyer’s assistant coach Johann van Graan was set to leave to up a position at Bath and Coetzee insisted he stay on. And now he claims to have had Van Graan foisted on him.

The Boks won three of their first four Tests of 2016 (making a nonsense of the lack of preparation time argument) and won only one more Test in their next eight even though they had spent more time together. How does that stack up?

It can’t be forgotten that Coetzee accepted the conditions of employment. The difficult scenario was laid out before him and he knew that Mzwandile Stick had been appointed backline coach in 2016.

In the letter Coetzee tries to play the transformation card‚ questioning SA Rugby’s commitment on that score‚ yet he had his own shortcomings in that area himself.

Ironically Stick‚ a black man‚ was sidelined in favour of Franco Smith‚ a white man‚ at Coetzee’s insistence and results did not improve.

Coetzee steadfastly picked the likes of white players Andries Coetzee‚ centre Jesse Kriel and scrumhalf Ross Cronje over the likes of black players Warrick Gelant‚ Cheslin Kolbe‚ Lukhanyo Am and Rudy Paige.

This divorce may yet end in a labour court if SA Rugby have not followed due process‚ which is claimed in the letter as well.

But given how long it has taken for this process to unfold‚ it’s clear SA Rugby have treaded carefully in their efforts to jettison an understandably disappointed and‚ perhaps‚ embarrassed‚ Coetzee.