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The Springbok Rugby Mess

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Charlie Chat

Yesterday at 16:44 · 

I have expressed myself about some rugby matters on a semi-private sports forum www.supersupporter.net and will now share my views here.

After Jake White assembled a very talented group of youngsters, he turned them into a hardened group of experienced Internationals. They were much criticized by politicians who know very little about sport let alone rugby and yet he repaid the undeserving with a Rugby World Cup. Along with that came much glory the reflection of which the politicians bathed in for as long as possible.

Jake White was rewarded with what the truthful would call a “sacking”. Yet another successful coach maligned by those who define their favour by its colour. Nick Mallett was supposedly sacked for being critical of SARU’s ticket pricing stupidity. In any other country with administrators of common sense, Mallett may have been quietly advised to keep his opinions to himself.

After suitably rewarding Jake White, Oregon Hoskins stuck his foot in his mouth by saying this of the appointment of Peter de Villiers:

At Wednesday's media announcement of the coach, Hoskins acknowledged that the goal to broaden rugby's racial base was a factor in De Villiers' appointment.
2-year contract for De Villiers
2008-09-05 02:30
"I want to be honest with South Africa and say the appointment did not take into account only rugby reasons... we took into account the issue of transformation in rugby very, very seriously when we took the decision," Hoskins said.

In his time de Villiers had to bear many ignominious attempts to belittle him not least of which was the alleged “sex-tape smear”. In his book, he says he had been told that ANC MP, Cedric Frolick, and anti-apartheid activist and Eastern Province rugby boss, Cheeky Watson, who had been one of his greatest supporters for the top job in South African rugby, had been behind the notorious sex tape smear.


De Villiers then discovered that SARU had started their negotiations with Heyneke Meyer to replace de Villiers 6 months before the 2011 RWC. In the minds of many Meyer should have been given the job in the place of White and the rebuilding of White’s team would have been much easier. In turn that would have made the job of succeeding coaches almost seamless. Instead de Villiers depended on White’s team and by doing so left the cupboard bare after the core of that team quit International rugby. 
Which brings me to the current coach and his crop of players.
Last year the RWC was lost before they left South Africa’s shores. Captain de Villiers was just one of the walking wounded who climbed on the flight for England. Alberts should never have been picked and the form player left out was Oupa Mohoje who has now been rightfully selected.

Had Meyer picked players who were both fit and on form, a core group of experienced players could have been passed on to the new coach. The other question of course is whether that new coach should have been Allister Coetzee?

Some argue that Coetzee left Western Province in “good shape” whilst others cite the reasons given by the provincial hierarchy which effectively cite a “lack of ambition”. His teams did very well in defending their tryline but seldom threatened the opposition’s.


As we all remember The Stormers did quite well in Super Rugby under Coetzee but what was that based on. In defence under Jacques Nienaber, the team was the stingiest in Super Rugby but on the other side of that could not score tries. It is interesting to note that whilst Coetzee is a former scrumhalf, it took a former hooker, Eddie Jones to galvanise the stagnant backline during Jake White’s 2007 RWC campaign. With Eddie Jones the Bok backline was transformed into a fearsome group.

Coetzee has employed the services of a former Sevens player who has no International experience in the 15-man game. This in itself is an indication of the lack of confidence in Coetzee’s coaching ability. In addition he has selected a player who finishes well at provincial level in a team which is given licence to thrill. However when it comes to defending the 13 channel Lionel Mapoe has never had to play against the best centres in World Rugby and defend for his and his team’s life. His choice at fullback is also strange as he has a stated aversion for picking players who play their domestic rugby abroad.

When in charge at Western Province, Coetzee found it difficult to motivate and mentor Elton Jantjies, yet he has entrusted this nervy player to guide an inexperienced Bok backline. He has succeeded so far in ruining one of the best centres in South Africa and many believe that de Allende is taking on too much responsibility for those around him instead of being told to play his natural game. Why has Coetzee dropped Jessie Kriel with whom de Allende formed an excellent partnership at RWC 2015? Why pick Morne Steyn as an “impact player”? Why persist with an out of form, jaded Adriaan Strauss who clearly no longer has the heart for the Bok badge?

In short there is a saying in rugby that the spine of a team is 2; 8; 9; 10; 15 all key positions which should be occupied by experienced, tough men. This “Springbok span under Allister Coetzee has no spine”.

It is also true that the administration of South African Rugby has no leadership. The President has resigned citing reasons which are difficult to understand or believe: "“Being president of SA Rugby has become a full-time job and with my term due to end in 18 months’ time I decided that, after a decade in the job, it was now time to start the next phase of my career, although I have no firm plans as yet, and allow someone else to take on this important role.”

Rugby in South Africa has been picked on by politicians simply because it is a successful sport. Those same people talk “Transformation” which in simple terms means “take from the successful and give it to people who have ambition but no knowledge or experience”. “Development” is what should happen but for the embattled ruling party, that would take too long. It would not had they started in the early 1990’s as was possible. Sport therefore is being ruined by people who have little or no understanding when those with knowledge and experience have been pushed out.

It is therefore not surprising that Gideon Sam should say this of South African Sports Administrators:
“structures are now dying and as a result of that, we have very poor administrators in sport.”

The fact is that politicians have pushed out those that are needed. That then raises the question of how it is that the powers that have interfered and ruined things may now have the will and ability to turn things around.

Will they and will things change? Don’t hold your breath.

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