Will Allister fall on his sword?

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 10:54

OPINION: Jan de Koning asks if Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will be true to his word and fall on his sword.

Let me make it pellucid - I don't think Allister Coetzee will resign.

I also don't think he should resign. (read last week's column to understand why!)

However, I am beginning to get very frustrated with Allister Coetzee's elusive and nebulous responses when addressing the crisis facing the Springboks - which is his responsibility.

The Bok coach keeps giving the appearance that he is not willing to take responsibility for an annus horribilis that is the Springboks.

Despite the obvious issues, I don't feel Coetzee has been honest enough about the real issues surrounding the Bok team.

Coetzee, throughout his first year in charge, never answered the questions directly - often going in a roundabout way when asked specific questions; kept blaming the system and kept making reference to a downward spiral that started (in his words) in 2014; repeatedly blamed provincial unions and franchises for the lack of skills; kept talking about the number of players currently plying their trade abroad ; never took responsibility for the selection errors he made this year or the lack of motivation that is clearly evident in the current Bok set-up; often complained he did not have time to prepare properly, given that he was only appointed on April 11 (although SARU said at the time that behind the scenes planning had started last year) and he kept making reference to the Boks' loss to Japan at the World Cup last year, as if that somehow justifies this year's disastrous run.

That is why I take the statement by Coetzee at the weekend with a pinch of salt that if a year-end SARU Springbok review and governance overhaul finds him "solely responsible" for the state of the Bok nation, "then I will walk away".

There are just too many examples of Coetzee shirking responsibility for problems that are clearly of his own making to think he would suddenly put up his hand and say it is all his fault.

It is almost as if he is living in denial.

One classic example: Coetzee's suggestion that he has not lost the dressing room.

Coetzee may feel he hasn't lost the dressing room, but if you read between the lines - especially after now retired captain Adriaan Strauss' statements at the weekend about 'using the correct platform to air his views' - then you realise just how divided the Bok team has been this year.

The decision to appoint Strauss captain ahead of other captaincy candidates like Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw clearly rankled with some and that had clearly cost Coetzee the support of some in that dressing room.

Vermeulen's decision to not make himself available for international duty - ostensibly because he was 'not fit enough' - and subsequent public outbursts, clearly indicate the vastly differing attitudes that existed in that team.

That dressing room was NOT on the same page, certainly not the page that Coetzee was on.

Coetzee has made a big deal of the fact that structures in the country are due for an overhaul.

However, if those structures are such a big issue, why did he accept the job? He knew full well what the structures are when he was head-hunted and brought back from Japan.

Now Coetzee hopes the post-indaba review is the start of a "new beginning" for South African rugby.

"We cannot plaster over the cracks, we have to go to the core," he said

So what is the "core" of the problem?

The answer is simple Mr Coetzee: The decisions taken at the South African Rugby Union headquarters.

And we know those problems are, in part at least, being created by the pressure applied by government and the capitulation of SARU officials to this pressure.

Unless new President Mark Alexander and his board take a strong stand and make 'rugby' decisions, not bow to political pressure, then things won't change.

Only time will tell what the Springbok review and governance overhaul will deliver.

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com