SA Rugby dodges Coet­zee dilemma

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The one ques­tion keep­ing rugby fans awake at night – the fu­ture of Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee – was ap­par­ently not dis­cussed at SA Rugby’s gen­eral coun­cil on Fri­day.

After a dis­as­trous first year in charge of the Boks, Coet­zee, whose team lost an unprecedented eight games in one year, only gets his mo­ment in the hot seat on Tues­day, where he will brief the Spring­boks steer­ing com­mit­tee about why his team was so di­rec­tion­less.

“It [Coet­zee’s fu­ture] was not on the agenda,” said an of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. “We didn’t want to cloud is­sues with pre­con­ceived ideas. We’ll wait for the com­mit­tee to as­sess Al­lis­ter.” With each pass­ing week, the pic­ture that is tak­ing shape ap­pears to be that Coet­zee is not go­ing any­where, what with SA Rugby hav­ing ad­mit­ted it would prob­a­bly record a loss this year. Sack­ing Coet­zee would mean giv­ing him a re­ported R13 mil­lion pay­out, get­ting rid of his sup­port staff – most of whom are full-time em­ploy­ees – and pay­ing a new coach.

What they did in the mean­time was agree on ground­break­ing de­ci­sions to re­form the gov­ern­ing body’s struc­tures.

As re­ported, the most eye-catch­ing changes were:

Per­mit­ting a 74% share­hold­ing in the pro­vin­cial teams by pri­vate eq­uity part­ners;

Tak­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ap­point­ing the Bok coach and the CEO away from the gen­eral coun­cil; and

In­creas­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of in­de­pen­dents and play­ers on the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil to five.

Hav­ing re­sisted th­ese changes for so long, the ob­vi­ous ques­tion to ask was: What led to their whole­sale ac­cep­tance?

“There’s noth­ing like poverty to push you into some re­al­ism,” the source said. “[SA Rugby pres­i­dent] Mark [Alexan­der] made a very pas­sion­ate and pow­er­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal scan of our sit­u­a­tion – from the unattrac­tive­ness of rugby to in­vestors and the need to make it at­trac­tive again.”

SA Rugby’s move got praise in the form of out­siders who deal with the busi­ness side of sport. Kelvin Watt, the ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son of Repu­com SA, said it was “a pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion”.

“You can’t play pro­fes­sional sport with an am­a­teur struc­ture. It’s a pos­i­tive move in the right di­rec­tion to start break­ing down the con­trol small prov­inces have over rugby,” he said.

Watt said that, if any­thing, SA Rugby should have gone fur­ther with its changes.

“What they haven’t done right is to have nine prov­inces and 14 pro­fes­sional teams. You can’t do that be­cause you don’t have the money to run that.

“They also haven’t looked at trans­for­ma­tion. In the Sevens team, trans­for­ma­tion is not an is­sue. But it is in the 15s team. With both teams run by the same or­gan­i­sa­tion, why is that?”


HANG­ING ON Al­lis­ter Coet­zee

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