Logic suggests that the pain of 2016 ended for Springbok supporters when the final whistle sounded on statistically the worst year of Bok rugby, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Allister Coetzee’s Boks won four from 12 Tests and drew against the Barbarians in a non-international match.
It’s not an opinion that Coetzee’s Boks are the worst performing in the history of the Springboks – it’s a fact. No other Bok team has lost eight Tests in a calendar season.
Coetzee’s Boks did this. They also became the second team in the history of the Springboks to be winless on an end-of-year tour to the northern hemisphere. They are the first Bok team to lose to Italy and to lose at home to Ireland. They also broke the record for most points conceded against the All Blacks in Durban (57) and points differential (42). They conceded 15 tries in two Tests against the All Blacks in 2016 and 98 points.
They are also the first team to not win a game overseas in the Rugby Championship and they are also the first Bok team to lose to the Pumas in Argentina.
There is nothing emotional about condemning Coetzee and his selections. The great and successful international coaches are foremost renowned as selectors of talent. They know what combinations to select.
If the devil is in the detail, then analyse Coetzee’s Test match selections over the 12 Tests. The evil is clearly his inability to select well.
Coetzee is not good enough to be at the helm of the Springboks and his refusal to accept responsibility is merely confirmation of his inability to see his flaws.
Coetzee, consistently, has described each Test loss as a dark day, his darkest day and as a shock. He never saw it coming even though the rest of the rugby world did.
He never gave an answer and his rhetoric insisted him having no regrets as head coach and final match-day squad selector.
He also said he wouldn’t have picked any other captain than Adriaan Strauss.
He also has said he doesn’t see colour in his selections, so he picked what he believed to be the best match-day squad on merit.
Coetzee, at no time, was restricted because of a transformation ideal that resulted in him having to compromise on selections.
The South African Rugby Union in 2016 set a 35% black-player representation in every starting XV in Super Rugby and at Test level.
Coetzee, in 12 Tests, matched and exceeded the target on just three occasions. He lost the core of his Tests with a primarily white team. Transformation, in Test selections, in no way is an excuse or justification for the coach’s obvious limitations.
Criticism of Coetzee has nothing to do with his colour. It is of his results and his refusal to ever accept there was another way to his losing one.
Coetzee’s Boks can’t cause Bok supporters any more pain, but the relief of the season being over with the final whistle of 2016 lasted six minutes when it should have been six months.
Enter Coetzee and his post-match interview: It was tough, he said, losing again and losing to Wales, but it represented, in his words, a fresh start for the Boks in 2017 and a new beginning for Springbok rugby.
The horror had started all over again. It was Newlands (versus Ireland) and 15 Boks versus 14 Irish and that sinking feeling at the final whistle …
Coetzee was insistent he could not singularly be held accountable. He was adamant he was going nowhere. He was not to blame. He had a four-year contract and he felt he was the right man and capable to be in charge of the Boks.
He summarised Bok rugby as ‘it is what it is’ – and he did so with a smile.
Worse was to follow when Saru’s president Mark Alexander, via a press statement, said no emotional decisions would be made and that another indaba would follow, more meetings, and that more committees would be appointed and that the same men who appointed Coetzee would analyse his results and that there would be no knee-jerk reaction to the worst-ever Bok season …
Oh, my goodness …
Alexander’s press statement and Coetzee’s absolute denial, presented as in the singular, was more emphatically damning and draining than any All Blacks defeat.
Nothing will change in 2017. All the incompetents have rallied to protect each other’s lack of pedigree and potency.
On Coetzee’s appointment I wrote that the Boks would be more a top-five than top-three team. Within six months he has taken them from three to six in the world order.
*Read Keohane on www.twitter.com/mark_keohane
Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
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