What to do with Coet­zee is the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa sports@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @simx­a­ban­isa

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the Spring­boks’ 49-0 de­feat by the Wal­la­bies in 2006, my then sports editor thought it would be a great idea for me to go to Jake White’s ho­tel room to ask him if he would re­sign as coach.

White, who had a post-match func­tion to at­tend, was in the process of get­ting into his num­ber ones when he opened the door. Naked from the waist up, he looked like a prize fighter, which made me even more ner­vous as I al­ready dreaded ask­ing the ques­tion.

His an­swer to the pointed query was as con­fronta­tional as he looked: “What? And watch some­one else go on to win the World Cup with my f ***** g team next year?”

Allister Coet­zee, in the un­en­vi­able po­si­tion of be­ing the first Bok coach to lose eight tests (out of 12) in a year, this week de­liv­ered a whim­per­ing ver­sion of what White said a decade ago, say­ing he won’t re­sign as he very much wants to be part of the so­lu­tion.

The slight dif­fer­ence is that when White said what he did, he had been Bok coach for three sea­sons and had won the 2004 Tri-Na­tions. He came good and won the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Coet­zee has three prob­lems: it’s his first sea­son and he hasn’t ex­actly made a win­ning im­pres­sion; there is lit­tle in the way he has han­dled things that sug­gests a turn­around in the near fu­ture; and no Spring­bok coach has so far re­cov­ered from his po­si­tion. So, what to do with a coach who won’t make his em­ploy­ers’ lives eas­ier by re­sign­ing, but who ap­pears to have lost the con­fi­dence of the pub­lic and his play­ers?

They need to ei­ther keep him, re­place him with an­other lo­cal, or find an over­seas coach for the job. The ru­mour mill sug­gests SA Rugby would like to re­tain him, but the tricky bit is do­ing it in a way that will spell a def­i­nite way for­ward for the Boks.

One of the things that might have been over­looked in hir­ing Coet­zee and sad­dling him with in­ex­pe­ri­enced coach­ing staff was the con­di­tions un­der which he thrived when he was with the Boks and the Storm­ers. He was al­ways sur­rounded by good coaches such as White, Gert Smal and Ed­die Jones (at the Boks), and Rassie Erasmus, Brendan Ven­ter, Gary Gold and Jac­ques Nien­aber at the Storm­ers.

The point is every­one – pos­si­bly even Coet­zee – un­der­es­ti­mated just how much hand-hold­ing would go into his job as Bok coach. By the looks of it, he has strug­gled with map­ping out the big pic­ture and help­ing his as­sis­tant coaches to prop­erly do their jobs.

If that is the case, maybe SA Rugby should repli­cate the en­vi­ron­ments he has worked in be­fore by bring­ing in heavy­weights. For ex­am­ple, I still don’t un­der­stand how a bloke coach­ing Italy beat SA Rugby to con­vinc­ing Ven­ter to help out with defence, es­pe­cially when he lives in Strand.

How has the Bok line-out re­gressed when Vic­tor Mat­field is on our TV screens ev­ery week? And has any­one thought of get­ting Fourie du Preez to help the half­backs with their play? Th­ese would all be done on a con­sul­tancy ba­sis, with money be­ing an ob­ject.

The other so­lu­tion would be to re­place Coet­zee with which­ever lo­cal coach is the flavour of the month. We’ll be giddy with ex­pec­ta­tion, but when the re­al­ity of how deep-seated the prob­lems are sinks in, we’ll get bored and ask for the next poor sod to be ap­pointed.

The at­trac­tive so­lu­tion would be an over­seas coach who won’t get brow­beaten into tak­ing some­body else’s as­sis­tants, will drag us out of the Stone Age non­sense that sees us dis­cuss phys­i­cal­ity as if it’s a play­ing pat­tern, and maybe he’ll go some way to­wards con­tex­tu­al­is­ing the trans­for­ma­tion de­bate as a for­eigner who’ll hold a mir­ror up to our faces.

By the lat­ter point, I mean that it would be great to have a coach who picks a player on what he sees in front of him and not on a his­tor­i­cal ba­sis.

But with SA Rugby strug­gling with the Absa-sized hole in its spon­sor­ship cof­fers and weighed down by mostly freeload­ing unions who trade reck­lessly, there is lit­tle to no chance of ap­point­ing an over­seas coach.

This makes the next cou­ple of weeks the most crit­i­cal in the his­tory of South African rugby.

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