SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has apportioned part of the blame for the delay in naming the changes to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s coaching staff to the leaks in his office and the media’s reporting on the matter.
The organisation was supposed to issue a statement on who would be joining Coetzee’s back-room staff with a view to strengthening it by the end of the week, but when it failed to meet its own deadline, Alexander voiced his frustration with the leaks from SA Rugby and the media.
“The press has put us in a precarious position with all the stuff they’re bringing out,” he said.
“This is sensitive stuff and we keep leaking it. There are negotiations taking place, we’re dealing with human beings and people’s lives here.
“This has created major issues for us because we’re dealing with internal and external contract negotiations.”
Alexander said part of the delay was that they were trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible.
“We’re doing all the necessary work before we make an announcement. If we make an announcement before things are complete it leads to another round of speculation.
“These leaks are creating other problems and put the process two weeks behind.”
Of course, in admitting that the leaks to media were driving him to distraction, Alexander inadvertently confirmed that the speculation that has been doing the rounds has more than just a grain of truth to it.
Said speculation is that SA Rugby is trying to get former Springboks Brendan Venter and Franco Smith to join Coetzee’s staff in the capacity of defence and backline coach respectively.
The problem is that both are tied to existing contracts with Italy and the Cheetahs, respectively.
The Italians, to whom Venter recently committed as defence coach until the 2019 World Cup, are understandably not keen on letting him go.
For their part the Cheetahs would like to see Smith continue his Currie Cup magic – where his team won the cup by winning all their games – at Super Rugby level.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said while the expectation was that the addition of Venter and Smith would strengthen the Boks, it would weaken Coetzee’s hand as it was tantamount to “micromanagement”.
As part of the performance management, the source confirmed it was true that Coetzee had to win the test series against France in June, otherwise SA Rugby would have to part ways with him.
“If he loses the first game, the process to replace him will start.”
While he wouldn’t say who was in line to replace Coetzee, the assertion went some way towards suggesting the rumours about former SA Rugby high performance manager Rassie Erasmus, now director of rugby at Irish club Munster, being sounded out were true.
The source said that, apart from the circumstances which weakened his hand last year – being appointed late, mass injuries, dealing with a player drain to Europe and being given inexperienced back-room staffers – Coetzee had been underwhelming in his first year in charge, where he lost an unprecedented eight tests.
“He has done himself no favours because even the people who backed him feel like he has no strategy on how to turn things around.”
Alexander said SA Rugby was hoping to make the announcement on the changes early this week.