‘It’s been a dreadful season’

What former coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks' 27-13 loss to Wales on Saturday and the overall 2016 season.

‘It’s been a truly dreadful season. I did say after last week’s loss to Italy that we had to wait until the end of the tour to have good look at how the Springboks have performed this season. Four wins out of 12, show they’ve performed badly. We haven’t seen much progress.

‘This is the first young team we’ve picked and they did make a lot of mistakes, but for 11 games we picked old, experienced players who made the same mistakes, without any real improvement from game to game. We haven’t really seen a game strategy that made sense this year. One moment we’re talking about playing a territorial game, the next it was “be brave” and play what is in front of you. We had an indaba and two coaches were added to the management group. South African rugby is just in a dreadful state at the moment.

‘A lot of thought has to go into our structures, into the way we run our competitions and into the way we appoint our coaches. And one has to ask is there a performance clause in Allister Coetzee’s contract. There are other coaches who have been fired for better results than he has had.'

​On Coetzee's capability

‘There are people who lead and lead inspirationally, and those who don’t. I don’t know if Allister capable. And I’ll use England as an example. Stuart Lancaster is a very decent person, who put structures in place and selected good players, but he couldn’t inspire his England team to do extraordinary things. And that is what Eddie Jones can do. He came in, took the same players, made a difficult guy captain, changed a little bit of their culture to make them more edgy and give them more self-belief and suddenly they are on a 13-match winning streak.

‘Every single week we’ve heard from the coaching staff that we’ve had “very positive training sessions”. They tell us “there’s energy in the team and good positive intent ahead of the next challenge” and it just disappears when that team runs out on to the field. Obviously you have to train properly, but I think no matter how well you train during the week you need intensity on the rugby field in a match situation. Our players seem nervous and insecure about themselves, about the game plan and about the positions they play in.

‘This team had a lot of changes – which we have been asking for perhaps earlier on in the season – but they were playing against a Wales side desperate for a win as well. And we started off quite encouragingly, but the key to a confident side is a side that pull themselves together and react on the field when things go against them because of the strong leadership within the team and the coaching ranks. This Springbok side, especially in the last six Tests, has dropped their heads as soon as the tide turned even marginally against them. It looked as though the players don’t know who to turn to.

‘Let’s step away from what is a desperately disappointing time for the Springboks. If we look at Super Rugby, apart from the Lions we can’t say that our teams did well. The Lions were the only team that played with confidence and a smile on their faces. So, nothing is completely lost, but you have to have a leadership group that gets the team to enjoy playing and to understand how and what style they are going to play.'

​On being nice guys

‘If everyone is attempting to be a nice guy and to like each other, even on the practice field when someone makes a bad pass and everyone runs over to him and says “Don’t worry, it’ll come right on Saturday”,  it won’t come right. We need players in the Bok side to run to that player and say “Get it right the first time”. And we need coaches who can go at players every time. There must be an edge to every training session and an edge to the team.

‘I feel dreadfully sorry for Allister, because he is a lovely guy. I know him personally and he is a decent person. But you are appointed to win Test matches for South Africa, not to win a popularity contest. But he has a four-year contract, so why should he resign? If there is no performance clause in his contract, why on earth would he walk away? We have to ask why wasn’t he appointed just for two years and why was there no performance clause for this year? Every other professional coach gets that clause. And was it fair to him that SA Rugby said he has to take Johann van Graan, who he has never met, as his forwards coach and Mzwandile Stick as his backs coach because he is good for the future of our rugby? If you ask someone to do this job, he should be allowed to pick his own support staff and then he can be judged for the results of the team. You can’t do that when you’re the one who provided him with support staff that aren’t helping.

‘It just hasn’t gotten any better as the year progressed. Something has to change.’

Photo: Mike Egerton/Getty Images

Post by

Nick Mallett