SA Rugby meetings and a season-review process scheduled to take place within the next fortnight are likely to result in another shake-up to the Springboks’ coaching staff, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Lest we forget, the SA Rugby powers that be unequivocally acknowledged that the original coaching team was in need of additional expertise when Cheetahs coach Franco Smith (to assist with backline play and skills), and Lions defence coach JP Ferreira were added to the management team.
The appointments were confirmed during the SA Rugby coaching indaba in October, with Allister Coetzee admitting that help was needed, while another get-together between the Springbok coaches and franchise coaches is set to take place on 12 December.
A general council meeting is also scheduled to take place just a few days before that, with SA Rugby president Mark Alexander having highlighted that a No 1 priority is to devise a turnaround strategy for the Springboks.
Notably, Alexander is yet to publicly provide any clear-cut continued backing of Coetzee after a year in which the Boks slipped to eight defeats in 12 Tests, but the coach himself has repeatedly pointed out that he still has a four-year contract in place.
With no apparent performance clause to provide a loophole, Coetzee could well be set to hang on to a lifeline and battle through a review process where he has said he will candidly clarify behind closed doors where and why things went awry for the Boks this year.
One of the key focus areas is sure to be realigning or removing certain roles of a coaching staff that was not entirely of Coetzee’s choosing.
For instance, Johann van Graan’s reappointment was confirmed before that of Coetzee himself, while Mzwandile Stick was fast-tracked into the set-up despite a patent lack of experience.
Belatedly, Matt Proudfoot was added to the Bok coaching group at the behest of Coetzee, with the former Stormers assistant taking charge of the Springboks' scrummaging, breakdown and contact play, while Van Graan was shifted into taking charge of all team attack and lineout play.
Beyond this muddled set-up, the Boks had three different defence coaches for three different campaigns (June Tests, Rugby Championship and end-of-year tour), while Louis Koen came in and out as a kicking coach.
Beyond that, the Boks struggled without the expertise of a full-time specialist breakdown coach, with respected Richie Gray’s absence very clearly felt this past season.
It appears now that Coetzee will have the decisive say on who should remain or be removed from his management team for next year.
Considering the Boks’ woes on attack, and the need for continued work on the players’ skill sets, it’s likely that there will be a drive to extend the services of Smith beyond just the recently concluded end-of-year tour.
Whatever the case may be, it seems certain that there will be consensus that the status quo cannot remain for the 2017 season. Even if Coetzee survives, some of his assistants may not.
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