SA Rugby must move forward

SA Rugby’s leadership should be applauded for finally making some bold decisions, but more change is required as the Springboks’ season review now gets underway, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

At last, there were some signs in evidence after last Fridays’ general council meeting that SA Rugby has acknowledged that significant problems require significant action.

The issues in SA Rugby are deep-rooted and multi-faceted, and there is simply no quick fix. There can be no denying that there are still considerable divisions and differing influences in the upper echelons of SA Rugby, while there are far-reaching financial woes, but at least there are some winds of change finally gathering power.

Following Friday's meeting in Cape Town, it was a significant step to see the general council conceding some of its power to that of the executive council, which in turn saw an increase in the make-up of the independent and player representation on the exco to five independents.

It’s an overdue move towards increased professionalism and allowing unbiased business minds to have a greater influence on decisions that can serve the greater good of SA Rugby.

This drive towards having professionals running the game at the top-end of the sport has also seen the creation of franchise committees where the professional franchises will look after their own business and will not be outvoted by minnows.

It’s an opportunity for like-minded franchise CEOs to sit together and discuss key matters at hand, while hopefully working towards a sustainable model related to the management and contracting of players.

‘If we don't become centralised and focused we won't make any progress,’ SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux commented. ‘As long as we continue pulling in 14 different directions, we will never take the game into the future.’

Finally, and following on from the recent coaches indaba, SA Rugby’s leadership has acknowledged that cooperation and communication is the only way to begin arresting the slide that the game has fallen into in recent years.

In all reality, the problems will not be solved overnight, and the numerous changes will only come into effect from 1 April, but at least something is being done.

Indeed, if there has been a blessing in disguise that has come out of the Springboks’ woeful performances this year, it has been to serve as a burning bush that provided an unmistakable sign that drastic action is required.

Yet, the significant matter of Allister Coetzee’s future was not on the agenda for Friday’s meeting. It will now be addressed during meetings at the beginning of this week, where he will present his case in explanation of the Boks’ poor performances to a review committee.

By the sounds of it, SA Rugby literally cannot afford to get rid of Coetzee at this early stage of his tenure, which would surely also require an overhaul of the assistant coaching group, and paying a new coach.

And while there are reasons to sympathise with Coetzee – primarily as a result of his late appointment – there is simply very little other performance-based justification to offer him the lifeline of another year at the helm.

SA Rugby’s leadership has to be bold again. If there is not the means to remove Coetzee, then they need to restructure his coaching support staff or find a way to bring in much-needed help by adding a consultant such as Brendan Venter or Robbie Deans to the management team.

The outcomes of last Friday’s general council meeting represented one step forward for SA Rugby, but it would be two big steps backwards if that is followed by allowing the current Bok coaching status quo to remain as is.

Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis