Coetzee says Kon’nichiwa
Allister Coetzee has already won one cup in Japan and is aiming for a second in his first season as head coach of the Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers.
Amid all the rumours that he has the inside track to become the next Springbok coach, the 52-yearold Coetzee yesterday made it clear that his “only focus [currently] is to ensure a successful season with the Kobelco Steelers”.
Coetzee’s team won the Preseason League, which is played without any test players, by beating the Suntory Sungoliath team in the final.
“Our first goal was improving player depth. Our next goal is to keep this momentum and to further build on it in the Top League,” said Coetzee.
“I’m satisfied with the work ethic and attitude of Andries Bekker, Jaque Fourie and the All Black Andy Ellis. Our five Japanese test players have also integrated well.
“I am honoured to be part of a good rugby club, which has made my adjustment here easier. With my background as a language teacher and my knack for languages, it helps a lot to learn Japanese.
“Afrikaans is my first language, English and isiXhosa second and third languages, and I’m trying to master Nihongo as my fourth. I get lessons twice a week and interpreters are available daily at practice and meetings.”
He admits, however, that every country has its unique challenges.
“But that is what makes coaching so exciting. The biggest challenge here is outlining the philosophy of the club and where we as management and the players want to take the club, especially given the different cultures and nationalities in the team.
“That is something I saw as a priority during my time at the Stormers and which I implemented meaningfully.”
The influence on local rugby of Japan’s good performance at the World Cup is indescribable, he said.
“Everyone here is committed to leaving a sustained and positive impression, especially in view of the next World Cup, when Japan will be the host. The interest in this year’s Top League is incredible and the games are very well attended.
“Their performance at the World Cup has also breathed confidence into the players and the local competition. There is currently an unparalleled upsurge in rugby.”
Nevertheless, Coetzee is predicting that Super Rugby is going to teach the sole Japanese team, the Sunwolves, many things.
“There is lots of travelling and the gruelling series makes physical demands on the players.
“It is also a long season for the Japanese players. Right after the World Cup, they started playing in the Top League, which only ends at the end of January. After that, the Super Rugby series starts.
“The players will have to be managed well. Nevertheless, I believe that with the work ethic I experienced here first-hand, such challenges can be surmounted.”
DOING WELL Former Stormers
coach Allister Coetzee