Firing coaches is a lazy solution to problems

Simnikiwe Xabanisa
Simnikiwe Xabanisa

In time-honoured fashion, the obligatory petition demanding the sacking of Springbok coach Allister Coetzee after last weekend’s record annihilation by the All Blacks in Durban washed up in City Press’ inbox this week. 

Quite how this paper became one of the go-to newspapers for disgruntled rugby fans is a story for another day, but the petition’s view was supported by a respected columnist, who reckons Coetzee should walk because he has added nothing to the Bok cause since his appointment. 

While it’s nice to know that a comprehensive defeat by the All Blacks still brings out the inner reactionary from our rugby public, when are we going to realise that the contest against the New Zealanders hasn’t been the rivalry we think it is in the 24 years since readmission? 

If anything, looking upon the All Blacks as equals, when clearly they are the Boks’ seniors, is a big part of why the focus is so narrow when it comes to finding solutions to the national team’s travails. 

An example of how laughable our problem-solving skills can be was the wording of the hastily put together petition to sack Coetzee. 

The letter, which originated from a used car dealership in Bloemfontein (seriously), said it wanted to get rid of the coaching group, yet it singled out Coetzee and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, the two black coaches in said group. 

Ignoring the sheer bigotry of that, when will we realise that simply firing the coach is an old South Africa-style solution to new and totally different problems? 

In the old days, there was always a Nick Mallett champing at the bit when Carel du Plessis wasn’t up to it, or a Jake White waiting in the wings when Rudolf Straeuli wasn’t hacking it. 

With the lack of money and experience in the South African game at the moment, there’s no such luck. Anyone thinking Johan Ackermann will fare better than Coetzee is deluded. 

He would also need time and would have to work magic similar to what he did at the Lions (remember, it took him three years at a level that wasn’t test-match standard). 

By the looks of it, not only have we fallen in love with the idea of super coaches such as José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the English Premier League, we’ve also been seduced by the giddy feeling of yet another new coach promising a new dawn. 

The funny thing is that our decline has done little to temper our arrogance. How else can one interpret the media and rugby-watching public’s indignant response to defeats against Ireland and Argentina? 

They are implementing the things South African rugby refuses to implement to be successful in modern rugby, so why shouldn’t they beat the Boks? 

The time has come for us to grow up and face reality: the South African game no longer has the financial, coaching or playing resources it used to have, resources that cushioned its scattergun approach and masked deficiencies for so long. 

Gone are times when a national coach could succeed in spite of having to fight his bosses on the side like White used to do. South Africa has been forced into a situation where we have to stop being lazy and learn how to solve problems. 

The word ‘collaboration’ has been foisted on us by circumstances after years of us ignoring what we could achieve by trying to work together. And the irony is that a system like that needs an egoless leader, which is what Coetzee happens to be. 

When he was Boks assistant coach, Coetzee had no problems when Eddie Jones was brought in for the World Cup to help with their running lines. 

Ditto at the Stormers, where he worked with the likes of Brendan Venter and Rassie Erasmus. 

The “everybody must fall” approach to problem-solving in South African rugby needs to be abandoned because, too often, we get rid of people while they still have a contribution to make.

Follow me on Twitter @simxabanisa 


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