JON CARDINELLI looks at five issues new Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will need to address in the lead-up to the Test series against Ireland.
Coetzee has succeeded Heyneke Meyer. His contract will run up to and including the 2019 World Cup.
The 2016 Test season promises to be a challenging one. SARugbymag.co.za looks at the issues that must be addressed before the three-Test series against Ireland, which starts on 11 June.
It’s believed that Coetzee first wanted Matt Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck (who served as his assistant coaches while he was at the helm of the Stormers between 2010 and 2015) on the national coaching staff. However, his management team will feature several coaches who have not worked together before. How Coetzee gels with Johann van Graan as well as the relatively inexperienced Mzwandile Stick – coaches who have been tipped for the roles of forwards and backline coach respectively – will influence the team’s preparations as well as their on-field performances.
SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins has said that transformation must be a primary consideration for the new coach. At the same time, Hoskins has conceded that the six local franchises must field more black players over the course of the Super Rugby tournament so that the national coach has a bigger pool from which to draw. According to SA Rugby’s strategic transformation plan, the Boks must field a side that is 50% white and 50% black in 2019. Given the present rate of transformation at the lower levels, which is still very slow, the national coach may be hard pressed to realise that goal.
OVERSEAS PLAYER POLICY
SA Rugby wants to encourage young as well as more experienced players to remain in South Africa. However, a journey to Europe or Japan has so often proved the making of a player in the past, and his subsequent return to the national team has usually benefited the collective in some way. That said, planning for the matches that fall outside the official World Rugby-sanctioned Test window (and thus preclude overseas-based stars) will be challenging.
Again, SA Rugby is bent on a favouring a candidate based in South Africa, even though some of the best South African players are currently plying their trade abroad. The year 2016 promises to be a difficult one, and the strongest senior players will be needed to guide the team through this period of transition.
Coetzee has less than two months to put everything in place. The management team may be underprepared and the team may be undercooked in that first series against Ireland. To put it another way: Peter de Villiers and Heyneke Meyer were appointed in January 2008 and January 2012 respectively. De Villiers and Meyer both lamented the short turnaround between the time of their appointment and the first Test of their tenure (both in June). Coetzee will have four months fewer than his predecessors to prepare his charges for the 2016 Test season.
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