Cardiff — "Are you throwing in the towel?" Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was asked as he headed to a door inside the cavernous Principality Stadium in Wales on Saturday night.
"Who‚ me?" he asked in return. "You know me."
The defiant coach says he is not going anywhere despite his team’s 24-22 defeat at the hands of a depleted Wales here. The defeat‚ the second on this tour after their opening-match meltdown against Ireland‚ casts a shadow over Coetzee’s future.
Wins over France and Italy brought momentary respite on this tour but the latest defeat will again crank up the heat on the coach, who has to face an SA Rugby review shortly.
He was asked if he expected to still be the Bok coach when England visit SA in June 2018.
"I signed until 2019. That’s what my contract says.
"The team has grown and there is a lot of improvement. Last year it was not the case.
"Last year we didn’t win a game on tour. This year we won two. There is progress."
He pointed out that the team had lost just four of their 13 matches this season and that two could have gone the other way, but his detractors will remind him about the lack of quality in the teams the Springboks vanquished this year.
France‚ Italy and Argentina do not rank among the game’s trendsetters at the moment.
Coetzee called his team a young and very fragile side but acknowledged that they need to start winning with greater regularity. "We have to get the results. If you look at outcomes only, you are missing the plot completely. You have to create opportunity for development.
"If you are waiting for superstars to come win every Test match you are living in a fool’s paradise. You have to give players opportunity to grow and develop. You cannot expect to build Rome in one day.
"Last year was a fiasco‚ definitely. We started from scratch this year. That is how I regarded this, as year one. I know I had the best players in SA … here.
"The players are conditioned better. There was collaboration. That already is improvement. If you focus on the negatives you will get what you are looking for.
"Write what you want to write about that. This side is definitely on the up."