Allister Coetzee still Bok coach as review continues
The coach has a four-year contract and so far SA Rugby has refused to make any public statements about Coetzee’s future
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee remains in his post — for now — after a review committee began its probe to find the reasons behind the national team’s failures in 2016.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander on Tuesday said the process would continue into January, increasing the likelihood that Coetzee will survive after steering the Boks to only four wins in 12 Tests in 2016.
Coetzee evaded the question in November of whether he would resign after the Boks lost 20-18 to Italy.
The coach has a four-year contract and so far SA Rugby has refused to make any public statements about Coetzee’s future. The governing body has referred to going through a "process" before announcements are made. Tuesday marked the first formal part of that process to address the deflating season that saw the Boks lose eight of 12 Tests, statistically the worst return in a calendar year in Springbok history.
But since the Boks lost to Italy in Florence there have been back channel talks about what direction to take. To sack Coetzee would require SA Rugby jumping through several labour law and financial hurdles, but they have to be weighed up against the cost of another calamitous season such as the most recent one.
Insiders suggest that getting rid of Coetzee and the entire backroom staff could cost in the region of R22m in payouts, which for an organisation that is set to declare a small loss in its next set of financial statements, is not ideal.
But in the long term, a repeat of 2016 could cost SA Rugby hundreds of millions in sponsorship revenue. A successful Bok team is the cure to most of rugby’s ills.
The hard but right decision would be to sack Coetzee, who has not performed, regardless of myriad structural problems in the local game.
However it appears that SA Rugby is buying time to come up with a compromise. One weekend newspaper suggested Brendan Venter would be roped in to hold Coetzee’s hand as an assistant and mentor.
"We know Springbok supporters and our partners are looking to us for instant answers and many of them may want to see heads roll," Alexander said. "But building winning teams is not an exact science and we want to make sure that the changes we make are the right solutions to our problems."
Coetzee and three senior players – retiring captain Adriaan Strauss, Pat Lambie and Tendai Mtawarira – provided their feedback on Tuesday.
The Springbok steering committee, comprising Francois Davids and James Stoffberg (who were instrumental in Coetzee’s appointment and also need to take responsibility) led the feedback session, which included Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO. The committee is part of the process of identifying and recommending national team appointments. Alexander was also present.
The committee received feedback on technical, tactical, operational, logistical and personnel matters and what effect management and players believed they might have had on team performance.
The committee also questioned team personnel on the committee’s impressions of the season and particularly the November tour performances.
"We review the Springbok season with the national coach at the end of each year but this year’s process has been given extra attention because of profoundly disappointing results," Alexander said.
"This was not a witch-hunt but a proper process to interrogate where things went wrong with a focus on finding answers and ensuring that it does not happen again.
"This has been a period of introspection for SA Rugby with all of us looking at our role in a dreadful season. That process will continue into January as we examine the options at our disposal. We will act upon whatever interventions are identified as being necessary by all involved."