Craig Lewis

Expectations must be managed

Dejected Bok players with coach Allister Coetzee Dejected Bok players with coach Allister Coetzee

The inevitable delays and lack of clarity around the likely restructuring of the Springbok coaching team means that expectations have to be realigned ahead of the 2018 season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Last week, the Boks’ season review was expected to take place. With this in mind, many would have hoped for a swift process that saw Allister Coetzee’s fate signed, sealed and delivered. Yet predictably, the reality was very different.

On Friday, this statement filtered through: ‘SA Rugby will not be in a position to respond to questions regarding speculation on the coaching of the national team until the new year. A number of meetings and reviews are in progress on all national teams, after which plans for all teams in 2018 will be confirmed.’

Confirmation then emerged over the weekend that the performance review did not take place last week, and that it had in fact been set down for 16 January. Unfortunately for almost everyone involved in South African rugby, it means we head towards a new year on little more than a wing and a prayer.

The Boks' preparation time for the 2019 World Cup is already limited, but by all accounts, the national team will be starting from scratch once again in the new year.

The word on the ground suggests that the delay on making any official announcement is simply to ensure that due process is followed as SA Rugby prepares to restructure the coaching team and legally terminate Coetzee’s contract.

Whatever the case may be, it remains a massive task for the Springboks to rediscover their mojo promptly, in time for the 2019 World Cup.

The Boks simply cannot continue under the current climate of mediocrity, but a restructured coaching team would need an extended period to put new plans in place, while equipping the squad to enforce the game-plan accurately.

It certainly takes more than 16 months to enforce a new blueprint, particularly when it comes to a national side such as the Springboks, when actual hands-on time for coaching is always extremely limited ahead of the international Tests.

However, 16 months is about all the time a new coaching staff will likely have when it comes to preparing the Boks for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. It’s a frightening thought, really.

The real question now revolves around whether SA Rugby will have the gumption to make decisive changes, and then find the means to settle on the correct appointments.

READ: Coetzee fate to be decided in 2018

A hands-on role for new South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would be welcomed by most, but what about the other aspects of the job he was officially appointed to fulfil?

SA Rugby desperately needs a ‘director’ to be able to focus fully on streamlining communication, contracting, player development, succession planning and increasing professionalism. Erasmus surely can’t do it all.

These are all the finer details that will need to be ironed out, but in the interim, the unfortunate reality is that both Springbok supporters and players remain in limbo as they await clarity and a clear-cut plan going forward.

The uncertainly calls for a need to realign expectations. It would be wishful thinking to expect the Boks to head into the 2019 World Cup as genuine title contenders. It’s sad, but true, when one considers they have fallen to sixth in the world rankings.

However, let’s at least hope that the Boks can head into that tournament with a settled coaching staff, and one that has begun to bring out the best in the former two-time world champions.

Let’s also hope that it is a coaching team that commands respect and is backed to take the team all the way to the 2023 World Cup. It’s time for the Boks to take baby steps before they can be expected to run.

The only option is to manage expectations for 2018, and to accept that it should be seen as the first step in a six-year plan that is geared towards consistent progression ahead of a hopeful peak in 2023.

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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