Allister Coetzee. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MARTY MELVILLE
Allister Coetzee. Picture: AFP PHOTO/MARTY MELVILLE

After a difficult 2016‚ things could not possibly get any worse for South African rugby in 2017 — or could they?

Assuming that because 2016 was so poor the only way for the Springboks in particular‚ and South African rugby in general‚ is up‚ is dangerous.

If SA Rugby does not face its problems‚ things could become worse — as hard as that is to believe after the Boks lost a record eight Tests in one season in 2016.

The governing body has admitted it has to tackle issues but whether it will make the tough choices remains to be seen. One of the biggest decisions facing SA Rugby is whether to retain floundering Bok coach Allister Coetzee.

Coetzee has three years left on his contract and would need to be paid out — some estimates suggest as much as R13m — but what would the cost be to rugby if the Boks endured another torrid season in 2017?

Already the national team cannot find a blue-chip sponsor and another season with a 33% winning ratio will not have big corporates lining up at the door.

Replacing Coetzee as Bok coach will not automatically guarantee success‚ but not replacing him after a year in which the coach demonstrated no obvious plan to turn the situation around‚ would guarantee more failure.

A review of Coetzee’s first season in charge started in December and will continue in the coming weeks. A source close to SA Rugby informed Business Day that Coetzee will be sacked‚ but other sources have suggested the situation is not so clear-cut.

Sources suggest the government is pressuring SA Rugby to retain Coetzee for another season‚ a situation that muddies the waters of the review.

If SA Rugby retains Coetzee there would in all likelihood be changes to the backroom staff in an effort to assist the coach. That sounds like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Coetzee is responsible for the Boks’ situation and if SA Rugby believes he cannot rectify it they have to make the tough call and sack the coach.

The health of the Boks is one of the challenges facing rugby this season.

At Super Rugby level the Southern Kings will continue to be funded by SA Rugby — a situation that cannot continue indefinitely. If the Kings cannot function as a franchise independent of SA Rugby’s largesse‚ it should be seriously considered to cull them from the Super Rugby tournament.

The Junior Springboks have also struggled for the past two seasons with mediocre performances under former coach Dawie Theron.

A new coach has yet to be appointed although the job is set to be going to former Maties Varsity Cup coach Chean Roux‚ a technical analyst for the Boks under Heyneke Meyer.

The organisation is also without a high-performance director since Rassie Erasmus’ departure to Irish province Munster last July. The post must be filled with a strong candidate urgently.

SA Rugby’s constitutional changes‚ which were agreed last December‚ will give a new director more autonomy to control the technical aspects of the sport at a micro level.

By eliminating the general council (unions) from key decisions at national level‚ a strong high-performance director could have a big impact on strategic development in the medium to long term.

The right candidate would also allow SA Rugby to disband its rugby committee‚ which was largely responsible for appointing Coetzee.

A new policy on the eligibility of overseas-based Boks is high on the agenda in 2017 and is set to be finalised by April while a decision on a "new" Currie Cup format should also be finalised by then.

TMG Digital

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