ANALYSIS: Ollie Le Roux’s rugby rant could benefit from some fact-checking
When you’re about to launch a scathing attack on the sport and country that gave you a good living and some wonderful opportunities‚ it’s an idea to at least have some facts right.
Earlier this week, former Springbok prop Ollie le Roux’s comments‚ where he ranted about Springbok coaches and SA rugby in general‚ were published in the Irish Independent.
It’s important to note that although the interview was conducted weeks ago‚ the story was only published after Ireland’s Rugby World Cup 2023 bid had finished a distant third behind SA and France in a technical review report.
The outcome of the report granted SA preferred candidate status to host the tournament.
Ireland’s dream has been shattered and Le Roux is one of several voices that have been used to undermine the SA bid since. Le Roux took aim at current Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
He is not the first person to be critical in print of Coetzee’s record‚ but Le Roux feels that only a former international has the capacity to coach a Test team‚ and probably to comment on Test rugby too — because players are so macho that they can only take advice and criticism from someone who has played a Test, you know.
"What does Allister Coetzee know about Springboks? Nothing. He’s got no right to even mention the word Springbok‚ because he’s not a Springbok. He’s got no right to even have an opinion about the Springboks‚" Le Roux frothed in the Independent.
"Same with Heyneke Meyer‚ Jake White. Yes‚ he won a World Cup by hook or by crook‚ but Gert Smal played for the Springboks‚ someone like that comes and says something‚ he’s been there...."
Obviously Allister Coetzee wasn’t a Springbok. And do you know why‚ Ollie? Because as a coloured man who aligned himself with the nonracial South African Rugby Union (Saru) in the 1980s — an organisation that refused to accept international sport without equality — he was not eligible to play for the Boks.
Coetzee was a good scrumhalf‚ who played at the highest level he could at the time —– captaining the Saru team for three years.
When SA’s isolation ended in 1992‚ Coetzee’s best years as a player were behind him‚ and his Bok chance had passed him by. Coetzee has every right as a South African to have an opinion on the Boks, let alone as a top-tier coach.
If Le Roux had his way only former Boks could coach the team and only former Boks could have an opinion on the team.
Every rugby writer‚ commentator and coach had better be a Bok, in Le Roux’s view. He bemoans that, in terms of team selection: "If you have a 60-40 chance as a white guy‚ you’re not going to get the chance."
I have no clue how he reached that number. Here’s a better number instead: Allister Coetzee had a 100% chance of not being a Springbok in his prime because he happened to have brown skin. The old 100-0 split that is so often forgotten.
And imagine being poor Gert Smal right now, dragged into this rant while he was minding his business giving nonSpringbok-capped men opportunities to coach rugby teams.
Smal employs John Dobson as WP coach, even though the latter’s only playing experience is some age-group provincial rugby.
Oh‚ Dobson’s team won the 2017 Currie Cup and there’s not a single former Springbok on his coaching staff.
How is that even possible without a Springbok blazer in the cupboard?
Le Roux’s further assertion that White‚ who only played junior provincial rugby for a season‚ was lucky to win the World Cup in spite of his lack-of-Test-rugby handicap, is equally ludicrous.
Just a moment of thought would have revealed that the most successful coaches of the modern era — Bob Dwyer‚ Kitch Christie‚ Rod McQueen‚ Graham Henry‚ Steve Hansen‚ Eddie Jones and yes‚ White — never played Test rugby.
Some of the least successful coaches of modern times — Rudolf Straeuli‚ Carel du Plessis and Martin Johnson — did. In fact‚ only two of the eight World Cup winning teams —New Zealand in 1987 and England in 2003 — were coached by former Test players.
You could argue that being a former Test international is a hindrance to winning the Webb Ellis Cup rather than a prerequisite.
But hey‚ these are only facts.