Padua, Italy — Allister Coetzee’s management of his players came under the spotlight on Monday.
Bok coach Coetzee has defended his selection policy, which makes limited use of foreign-based players.
It is costly to rope in foreign-based players. Those who are asked to join the Boks can lose income from clubs unwilling to pay them in their absence.
The coach stressed the potentially disruptive effect of bringing in players who earned a living abroad. "You can’t in one week bring those players up to the level [of those] who have been part of the squad‚" he said.
He believes in continuity in selection and is understandably desperate to avoid a revolving-door selection policy.
Coetzee was specifically asked about the situation of Jan Serfontein, Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn.
"They are all quality players and they are available [in terms of SA Rugby’s 30-Test criteria].
"Jan is settling in in France. He’s not available. Pat hasn’t played more than four games.
"I had a chat with Frans last week. We haven’t resolved those issues with the club that will allow him to play.
"Some players have long-term contracts. They need to decide whether they want to play for the Boks.
"It is the player that has to make the decision. Some players are not certain about their futures. They don’t want to risk their future. This is not a clear-cut thing.
"There is Regulation 9 that allows players to play for their country. They have to make a decision‚ either they retire from international rugby or give up their contract and return to SA," he said.
Coetzee is thus left in a tight spot‚ especially given that there is a question mark over captain Eben Etzebeth’s fitness. The lock is likely to play but Coetzee does not seem to have clear-cut contingencies as SA Rugby would prefer the national captain to be based in the country.
Duane Vermeulen could step into the breach as captain but he is based abroad.
"I don’t make policy‚" said the coach.
He could not give a clear answer about what the Bok coaching set-up might look like now that Rassie Erasmus has been confirmed as SA Rugby’s director of rugby. Erasmus’s trusty lieutenant, Jacques Nienaber, will be one of the national team’s assistant coaches.
Before the tour, Coetzee did not want to speculate about how his working relationship with the incoming director of rugby might turn out.
Asked what his management team might look like should he be around in 2018‚ Coetzee offered a blunt "I don’t know!"