Bok coach demands change

Allister Coetzee says the Springboks will never be a world force unless the national team, franchises and provinces work together, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cape Town.

The two-day SA Rugby coaches indaba commenced on Wednesday morning in Cape Town. It’s been six years since a South African team won the Super Rugby title, and seven years since the Boks last won a trophy of significance. In the wake of further poor results in 2016, the country’s coaches, directors of rugby, and even its CEOs, have come together to plot the way forward for South African rugby.

Only one South African side (the Lions) progressed to the Super Rugby semi-finals. The Boks went on to lose five of their nine Tests, a record that included inaugural defeats to Ireland at home and Argentina away, as well as a humiliating 57-15 record loss to New Zealand. That the South African rugby system is largely at fault is plain to see.

On Wednesday, Coetzee and SA Rugby acting president Mark Alexander delivered a strong message to the 54-man delegation at the indaba. All of the South African Super Rugby coaches were present, as were three former Bok coaches in Ian McIntosh, Carel du Plessis and Rudolf Straeuli, and former Bok captains Gary Teichmann and John Smit.

South African rugby needs to change the current system. Its coaches, said Coetzee, need to be more open to sharing ideas. The alternative is more disappointment at both Super Rugby and international level.

‘We can take a leaf from New Zealand’s book,’ said Alexander. ‘All 180 of their [Super Rugby] players are controlled by the New Zealand Rugby Union. They believe in collaboration, and it’s clear that that has allowed them to obtain results [two World Cups, 14 Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship trophies and 14 Super Rugby titles].

‘In South Africa, we have six different franchises who employ six different methods. Clearly the system is not efficient in terms of managing players and obtaining the desired results.

‘This indaba is about collaboration and finding solutions. Hopefully we will look back at this indaba as a turning point in our history,’ Alexander added.

Coetzee was more bullish. The Bok coach highlighted the national team’s mediocre record before the professional era (65%). He pointed out that despite winning two World Cups in the professional era, the national side has only achieved a 63% win rate.

‘The Boks have lost five out of nine Tests in 2016. But it wouldn’t have mattered if they had won nine out of nine, this sort of meeting and planning is overdue. We need something sustainable,’ said Coetzee.

‘This is a reality check. We can’t keep on going on like this, operating in our own little kingdoms and hoping that we will eventually get it right. We need to share ideas.

‘It’s not about revealing game plans,’ the Boks coach clarified, addressing the coaches specifically. ‘It’s about identifying trends and working out a national strategy that benefits the players, as well as the Super Rugby and national teams.

‘We’ve been keeping these things close to our chest, and it’s led to stagnation. We need to commit to a change so that players are equipped to slot into any type of game plan by the time they get to national level. It’s a fact that when our Super Rugby teams have done well, our national side has done well. They go hand in hand.’

What Coetzee said on Wednesday morning was hardly revolutionary. New Zealand have been using a central contracting system for years. Their franchises do share ideas and there is a collective drive to keep the All Blacks at the pinnacle of world rugby.

SA Rugby has admitted that its current system is flawed. Alexander has demanded a change, as has Coetzee. The big question now is whether the unions and franchises will take these words to heart. There’s a big difference between identifying the problem and finding a practical solution.

The coaches indaba, which is being facilitated by former Bok centre Brendan Venter, will conclude on Thursday afternoon.

Photo: Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli