Sur­viv­ing a devil of a Bok job

French Test se­ries win strenght­ens Coet­zee’s push for World Cup in 2019

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

THIS WAS the se­ries that was meant to sink Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee, and usher in a new na­tional coach.

How­ever, things have not gone ac­cord­ing to script for many of his crit­ics.

In­stead of be­ing given his march­ing or­ders, the In­com­ing Test Se­ries against France has not only saved Coet­zee’s head from the prover­bial chop­ping block, but has also strength­ened his po­si­tion in lead­ing the side to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Ja­pan.

Prior to the Spring­boks fac­ing the French, spec­u­la­tion was rife that Coet­zee was al­ready walk­ing the plank and that his em­ploy­ers in Plat­tek­loof, Cape Town, were bank­ing on the dis­as­ter of last year to con­tinue, so that they could show him the door.

But as the rugby gods would have it, Coet­zee’s self-re­flec­tion and cor­rec­tion – en­forced by the sub­se­quent se­ries vic­tory with a game to spare over the French – would yield a dif­fer­ent out­come to what many pre­dicted.

What Coet­zee has reeval­u­ated, due to the tur­bu­lence of last sea­son – when his team sank from be­ing third in the world to sev­enth af­ter los­ing eight of their 12 matches – was his own stub­born­ness not to lis­ten to out­side voices and his pen­chant in­stead to look in­wards to find re­lief and re­lease pres­sure as­so­ci­ated with his job.

Coet­zee has forced the door shut on last sea­son by ap­point­ing a new cap­tain in No 8 War­ren White­ley, adding the metic­u­lous and ob­ses­sive rugby bril­liance of Bren­dan Ven­ter and go­ing with his gut on which play­ers will fit into his new plan.

But more than any­thing, it was Coet­zee’s be­lief and ac­count­abil­ity to the Man that saved him and his job, and has led, ac­cord­ing to him, to this new-look Bok team gain­ing an unas­sail­able 2-0 se­ries lead against a for­mi­da­ble French side.

“I don’t have crit­ics,” quipped Coet­zee yes­ter­day.

“There is only one per­son’s ap­proval I want and would like to have – it is the Almighty and no one else’s ap­proval. I’ve got a four year con­tract with SA Rugby un­til 2019. A na­tional coach knows when he signs this, that you will be judged on a few things. I am pleased that (last year) is dead and buried now and we’ve moved on.”

While Coet­zee con­tin­ues to live with a tar­get on his back and will ul­ti­mately be the fall guy for any of the Spring­boks’ woes, he cred­its his play­ers for the swift es­tab­lish­ment of op­ti­mism in the squad, strength­ened af­ter their 37-15 win against a much stronger French team in the sec­ond Test in Dur­ban on Satur­day.

Coet­zee has come full cir­cle in his short but emo­tion­ally sap­ping ten­ure as Bok coach, es­pe­cially af­ter watch­ing his team ca­pit­u­late and suf­fer a record de­feat at the hands of the All Blacks just eight months ago at the same venue. He may also feel vin­di­cated in his be­lief that he is the right man for the job af­ter this year’s quick start, but the man they call Toetie has not made this job-sav­ing se­ries about him­self.

In­stead, he strongly be­lieves that his fate, and that of his team, lie in the hands of his play­ers. Said Coet­zee: “It is great to see what is hap­pen­ing now and it is not to prove any­thing to any­one but it is to make sure that our hard work is pay­ing off at the mo­ment.

“Yes, mis­takes were made but it is the abil­ity to rec­tify those mis­takes and the abil­ity to set them right that counts. We’ve got a great en­vi­ron­ment, fan­tas­tic lead­er­ship, a great cap­tain and a will­ing­ness that ev­ery­one has bought into the plan.

“Eight months ago, peo­ple booed us off the field and on the very same field (this past week­end) the play­ers got a stand­ing ova­tion. A lot of credit must go to them for be­ing able to un­selfishly buy into our value sys­tem, ob­vi­ously, with our man­age­ment team as well,” Coet­zee con­tin­ued.

With his crit­ics si­lenced and his job saved, it is now up to Coet­zee and his team to ful­fill their path to glory and an­swer the call­ing of the one Man that Coet­zee lis­tens to.

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