Coetzee: People are living in a fool's paradise

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 19:50
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REACTION: Jan de Koning reports on Allister Coetzee's address at the two-day South African rugby coaches' indaba, which began in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The Springbok coach, Coetzee, said South Africa need a 'reality check' and anybody thinking that the country was still a top rugby playing nation was living in a fool's paradise.

However, he felt the indaba is the vehicle through which the slide of the game in South Africa can be arrested.

Coetzee, his management team and all six Super Rugby coaches and CEOs were in attendance for the opening of the two-day conference.
 
Three former Springbok coaches (Ian McIntosh, Carel du Plessis and Rudolf Straeuli) as well as respected former national captains, Gary Teichmann and John Smit, were also among the 54 delegates.
 
The Bok coach said the decline in the game in the country must be addressed as a matter of urgency, or the success rate will drop below the 40 percent mark.

Since the onset of professionalism, in 1996, the Boks have managed to win just 62.5 percent of all their games. It is at just 61 percent if you take into account games since the turn of the century.

In the past five years no South African team has won any major tournament - with the Bulls (Super Rugby 2010) and Boks (Tri-Nations 2009) the last noteworthy successes.

Coetzee's team sits at just 44 percent this year, with four wins in nine Tests.

There are also a few unwanted records in there - the first defeat again Ireland in South Africa, a first loss to Argentina away, as well as a humiliating and record 15-57 loss to New Zealand.

Coetzee spoke of isolated successes since the return from isolation in 1992.

There was the 1995 World Cup win, the 17-Test winning streak in 1997 and 1998, the 2004 Tri-Nations victory, then there was the 2007 World Cup win and the 2009 successes against the British and Irish Lions and another Tri-Nations win in 2009, which included a 3-0 sweep against the All Blacks.

"Success has been sporadic," Coetzee said, adding: "It has not been at a constant level.

"Our home record in Super Rugby since 1996 is 57 percent. Our away record, by all SA teams, is just 25 percent.

"The Rugby Championship home record against all teams since 1996 is 62 percent and away record is just 18 percent.

"Of the 42 competitions [Super Rugby and Rugby Championship] since the game turned professional New Zealand [teams] have won 14 Super Rugby titles and 14 Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations titles. Australia have won four Super Rugby titles and four Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations titles.

"South Africa sit at a paltry three each in those competitions - just six titles in 42 competitions.

"My questions is: Have we embraced professionalism?," Coetzee asked.

He felt there was a clear parallel to be drawn.

"I was part of the 2007 era, where we won the World Cup, and 22 of the 31 players came from the two Super Rugby finalist teams [Bulls and Sharks]."

He felt Super Rugby franchises and the Springboks have to work hand in hand.

"The national [team set-up] and franchises cannot operate in isolation," he said, adding: "A national strategy is not about dictating game plans to any team.

"Different coaches have different styles. It's about a national strategy and equipping our players to adapt to any type of game plan that coaches want to play.

"If he has the passing skill as a forward, then he can play off No.9 and still make that tip pass and still make the pass behind the other forward's back."

Coetzee was very bullish about the indaba, feeling that the large gathering can make a real difference.

"I am excited to see the intellectual property in this room," the Bok coach said, adding: "You, the guys sitting here, are the only people that can make a significant difference to South African rugby.

"When I started with 'interventions' at the beginning of the year, when I visited the unions, I said that we need to get together and speak about it.

"Even if my record was nine wins from nine matches, this would still have been necessary.

"It was always important that we get together in a format like this and have a reality check.

"We are living in our little kingdoms, and we are hoping, thumb-sucking [thinking] that we are the best rugby-playing nation.

"I would like to take a look at what we'd like to get out of our indaba, just the vision. It is striving for rugby excellence and continuous improvement, enabling us to become the top rugby nation.

"How do we achieve that?

"An alignment between us, as the national coaching team, and the franchises must define technical shortcomings and impact on the performance of all teams.

"We have the Springbok players for about 18 weeks in the year. The rest of the time they are with their franchises.

Coetzee said the fact that Springbok players spend 18 weeks with the national team per year, and the rest with their franchise/province, made it crucial for the Super Rugby teams to embrace a "national strategy" overall.

"How long does it take to form a habit? How long does it take to form a skill, or implement a skill under pressure? Therefore, alignment is important. We cannot be successful without you guys sitting here.

"[We must] discuss and share contemporary trends and ultimately a philosophy to ensure continuous improvement, as well as an agreement on strategies to address the identified shortcomings."

He said he was not talking about game plans, but world trends and to share ideas.

"We've been keeping our ideas close to our chests and it resulted in stagnation.

"Succession planning, as well as long-term and short-term interventions with a strategic transformation plan. We all bought into it [transformation] and we are all committed to it.

"It is a fact and a reality of living in South Africa."

By Jan de Koning, reporting from Newlands
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