The Springboks are once again facing the prospect of being underprepared for the June series against France, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Time ticks on, and there is still no public clarity on the future of the Bok coach. Back in mid-December, SA Rugby announced that the 2016 Bok season review was well under way, and that the ‘process to identify changes’ was expected to be completed in January.
And on and on it’s gone. The latest offering was on 3 February, when it was confirmed that the coach review process had been concluded, but that there would be no comment on the process until all the contractual negotiations was completed.
In the interim, the lack of clarity has led to inevitable speculation and rumour mongering. Reports have gone back and forth over Munster boss Rassie Erasmus being lined up to take over from Coetzee, which then led to immediate denial from his camp.
There’s also been talk of Brendan Venter joining as a full-time assistant, but this has been a matter complicated by his agreement to join Italy on a long-term deal, while the rugby grapevine has also suggested Cheetahs coach Franco Smith could be joining the Boks on a permanent basis.
There were further reports that suggested Coetzee would be retained for the June series, a decision apparently taken at the behest of sports minister Fikile Mbalula, but that the Bok coach would be replaced if the series against France ended in defeat.
Perhaps contracts are indeed still being finalised, and those that need to know are in a position to know, but for the public and other powers that be at Super Rugby level, a cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over the Bok coaching set-up.
It’s ironic, considering that Allister Coetzee conceded at the end of last year that his late appointment in April had certainly done him no favours in preparing the team for the international season. As a result, a shock loss to Ireland in their opening game was the first of several humiliating defeats in 2016.
So will things be any different this time around? Here we are three months away from the June series against France, and there has been no confirmation around the coaching group.
There has been talks over Bok camps being held during Super Rugby, but it still remains to be seen how these take shape.
One can also only wonder how Coetzee and perhaps a couple of other assistants can be expected to perform if they’re constantly looking over their shoulders knowing that the outcome of the June series could determine their fate.
Let’s also not forget that at the conclusion of the first SA Rugby coaches indaba in October last year, lip-service was paid to the fact that ‘ground-breaking’ processes had been put in place to map out a number of interventions at all levels of the game.
It was said that a six-page document had been drawn up to summarise the discussed plans and processes, and that a monitoring system was being put in place from the new year to ensure that the franchises continued to follow the vision that had been mapped out. This was ultimately with the aim of establishing a South African rugby blueprint to unify the required skill sets and playing style.
Yet, only two weeks away from the start of Super Rugby, there has really been very little indication that franchise coaches have had the direction and clarity to put any different processes in place to ultimately benefit the national cause.
In a new year, hope will patriotically arise again that the Boks can turn their fortunes around in 2017. Yet, the wheels of change have again turned at a frustratingly pedestrian pace. All the while, the wellbeing of the Boks remains as uncertain as ever.
What a shame.
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