Quo vadis Springboks?

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 11:51

OPINION: Is this the worst Springbok team ever? This question, posed after the record loss to Ireland at the weekend, prompted me to do some digging.

Let me make it clear from the outset, it is near impossible to compare previous eras with the game as it is currently played.

However, we accept that the rules were the same for all the teams from that particular era/decade.

It allows us to compare the results and/or winning percentages. It also indicates if a team has evolved (moved with the times).

The facts are, Allister Coetzee achieved an unacceptable low 33.3 percent success rate last year and for 2017 he sits at a barely acceptable 50 percent - despite starting the year with five successive wins.

His team is now on a five-match winless streak.

That puts Coetzee at 40.9 percent, just nine wins in 22 Tests - the fourth-worst since readmission in 1992.

However, more alarmingly is the number of unwanted records the team has achieved with him as their mentor.

It includes a first-ever defeat to Ireland in South Africa, a first-ever away defeat to Argentina and a first-ever defeat to Italy.

The number of worst-ever results are more alarming - 0-57 to New Zealand this year and the biggest ever loss to Ireland (3-38 this past weekend).

In fact the Boks have secured three places in the top (or is that bottom) six placed for worst-ever defeats in the last two years.

In 2016 the four wins from 12 Tests meant it was the worst year in the history of Bok rugby.

With games against France, Italy and Wales still to come on the year-end tour, last year's 33 percent is not that far away.

It is not surprising, given the past couple of months' results, that rumours of Coetzee's axing has resurfaced.

Unsubstantiated reports suggested Coetzee will get the axe in December.

More importantly, the return of Rassie Erasmus from Munster will see him taking over the 'coaching' duties - even though his official title is  Director of Rugby'' at the South African Rugby Union.

As bad as his record is, my view is that Coetzee should not take all the blame for the dramatic decline the team has been in since the 2015 World Cup - where the Boks came within two points of beating the world champion All Blacks in a semifinal.

Just as Coetzee must carry the bale (and responsibility) for his poor tactics and selections, so must the SARU bosses take responsibility for appointing Coetzee in the first place.

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They must also take blame for not having a performance clause in his contract.

Or let me rephrase that. They must take blame for making his only 'performance clause' the transformation of the team - i.e. all Coetzee needs to do is adhere to the quotes agreed to (inn a contract) between SARU and the government.

I want to state, categorically, that quotes/targets/transformation (or whatever you like to call it) is not to blame for the demise of the team.

It is poor selections and tactics.

You can question the merits of players like Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Rudy Paige and Courtnall Skosan in the backline.

You can ask why the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Warrick Gelant, Louis Schreuder and Francois Venter were not promoted.

Those would be 'form' selections in the backline.

Forwards who should not make the side on merit include Uzair Cassiem, Lodewyk de Jager, Francois Louw and Bongi Mbonambi.

Pieter-Steph du Toit, even as a line-out option, should not be on the flank. He is a lock.

Steven Kitshoff should star and so should Wilco Louw.

Of course Coetzee will defend his selections, but the excuses and cliches are getting stale.

There is no leadership (since Warren Whiteley's injury-enforced absence) in June.

The two biggest defeats this year - 0-57 to New Zealand and 3-38 to Ireland - were the epitome of a disinterested team.

Against Ireland this past week the Boks conceded three tries in the last 10 minutes - 21 points.

It was not much better in the 0-57 humiliation in Albany, where they conceded three tries in the last 15 minutes.

The body language of the players, including the captain, suggested nobody was taking the lead to lift the team.

The decision last year to appoint a dour captain in Adriaan Strauss backfired badly.

It appears the appointment of an equally dour Eben Etzebeth is having the same disastrous results.

And I have addressed the selection issues.

Before closing I must repeat my earlier thought. SARU bosses are equally culpable - after all, they appointed Coetzee and his assistants. They host the bosberaads, which appears to have born no fruit.

Now, finally, I must ask: Quo vadis Springboks?

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com