Saru must appoint a head coach who has the strength and nous to take the Springboks forward, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer resigned from his post on Thursday. In an official release by Saru, Meyer said that the time was right to step aside.
Whether he resigned of his own volition or was pushed to do so, is now beside the point. The fact is that Meyer is gone. This outcome won't surprise many South Africans who have followed the Boks' decline over the past 12 months.
South Africa failed to win a single match in the 2015 Rugby Championship. They suffered their first-ever losses to Argentina (at home) and Japan. The defeat to the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final (their seventh to New Zealand in four years) was the death knell for the embattled coach.
Meyer leaves the post with a winning record of 67%. Only Kitch Christie (100%) and Nick Mallett (71%) were more successful during their respective stints with the Boks. The significant difference between Meyer and the likes of Christie, Mallett and even Jake White (66%), is that the men in the latter group guided the Boks to at least one trophy of substance. Meyer failed to steer the Boks to a single Rugby Championship title between 2012 and 2015.
It's been interesting to note the global rugby community's reaction to Meyer's exit. Many among the overseas player and media ranks have expressed their shock. Over here in South Africa, there is less surprise because we hold the national team and coach to a higher standard. A third-place finish at a World Cup will never be good enough.
Will we continue to champion such high standards? This is the question that should be directed at Saru as they begin the process of nailing down a new coach.
Meyer developed some outstanding young players during his tenure. His record of 67% included a first-ever win at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, as well as a victory in France that ended a 16-year drought in that part of the world.
And yet, those achievements were never going to compensate for a string of Rugby Championship failings. One would hope that the next Bok coach will be judged by the same standards. One would hope that he has the ability to take the South African game forward, and secure some silverware.
Allister Coetzee is expected to succeed Meyer as Bok coach. This is the same Coetzee who presided over the Stormers between 2010 and 2015.
His supporters will point to his overall record with the Cape franchise (63%), not to mention his good transformation record, as reasons for appointment. And yet, there's no hiding from the fact that the Stormers lost four out of five play-off matches during Coetzee's tenure. If Saru is looking for a coach to lend them an edge in a big tournament that features the likes of Australia and New Zealand, they should be looking elsewhere.
Saru will encourage the respective Super Rugby franchises, and thus the national team, to field more players of colour from 2016 onwards. The upshot is that the next coach will be tasked with meeting some demanding transformation targets, as well as obtaining a string of positive results.
White, Peter de Villiers and Meyer all complained about the lack of transformation at the lower levels of South African rugby, and how that hampered transformation at the highest level. All three Bok coaches also bemoaned the manner in which players are managed by their franchises and how the South African system works against the national team rather than for it. This is yet another challenge the next man in charge will need to overcome if he hopes to improve on the Boks' standing in world rugby.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images