Here we are again. It has taken a bit longer to reach the tipping point of the Boks’ season than it did in 2016‚ but we have reached it‚ and inevitably, it was the All Blacks who did the honours.
After much talk about growth and a new team culture after five wins and a draw against some of the worst tier-one Test teams since the phrase "tier one" was first used‚ the Springboks find themselves in a deeper rut than they were in in November. Then the Boks had just lost against England‚ Italy and Wales on their year-end tour‚ which came on the back of a record 57-15 defeat to the All Blacks in Durban.
Coach Allister Coetzee’s first season in charge ended by losing eight out of 12 Tests‚ which included a first home loss against Ireland‚ a first away loss against Argentina‚ a first defeat against Italy‚ a first loss to England in a decade as well as a record losing margin against the All Blacks.
That record has only lasted 11 months before a new one was set in Albany last Saturday.
But, Coetzee was not axed because he used the defence of not being given enough time to prepare due to his late appointment, which only became official in April 2016.
This season‚ with each passing win against poor opposition, he became increasingly bullish‚ claiming that the right preparation and the right mix of assistant coaches were key elements to the Bok "resurgence".
However, when it came to the most meaningful measure of progress — a performance against the All Blacks — the Springboks failed miserably.
And despite leaking eight tries and failing to register a single point‚ Coetzee claimed the team could not be defined by one result. Why not?
Results against the best are what Bok teams should be defined by.
The 1937 Springboks and the 1996 All Blacks have gone down in history because they became the first teams from their respective countries to win a series against their great rivals.
Those Boks are defined by success against the toughest rugby team on the planet.
The results of rivalries between Liverpool and Manchester United‚ Real Madrid and Barcelona‚ Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are what define those teams and people‚ as much as silverware.
Losing 57-0 to the All Blacks after 57-15 and 41-13 losses in the past 13 months‚ does define the current Boks.
Coetzee is not solely to blame because the reality is that South African rugby is not as good as supporters want to believe and the players that are selected are in many cases not the best in their positions.
There has been no Super Rugby success for seven years and the Boks last won a meaningful trophy in 2009.
Dozens of Springboks are playing overseas.
Perhaps most worrying, however, is that top South African coaches are not involved in the set-up.
World Cup winner Jake White‚ two-time Super Rugby winner Frans Ludeke‚ Rassie Erasmus‚ Jacques Nienaber‚ Johan Ackermann‚ John Plumtree — despite being a New Zealander, he earned his coaching stripes in SA — and Gary Gold are just a few coaches not working in SA.
Others such as Heyneke Meyer‚ Peter de Villiers and Alan Solomons are not coaching full-time and another experienced and successful coach such as Gert Smal spends his life fighting boardroom battles at Western Province as director of rugby.
These are all mitigating factors underlining the problems in South African rugby‚ and whether any of those men could do a better job than Coetzee is a moot point.
Coetzee is the man in charge‚ he is the man who selects the squad‚ he is the ultimate authority on tactics and, yes‚ he is responsible for results.
He should be measured the same way any of his predecessors would have been.
Losing 57-0 is unacceptable despite deep-rooted problems at SA Rugby.
And yes coach‚ that result‚ that performance‚ and that margin of defeat do define you and the team.
The definition though‚ is unprintable.