Boks: The uncertainty isn't helping anyone

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Bloemfontein - The Springboks have lost just once in 2017, yet coach Allister Coetzee continues to find himself under a mountain of pressure. 

That could be because that loss was the worst in the history of South African rugby, or perhaps it is because the Boks have not won in three Tests. 

The optimism that was accompanying this side after convincing Test victories over France and Argentina seems to have been extinguished. 

A 57-0 hammering will do that. 

On Saturday, the Boks had a golden opportunity to get back on the right track with a win over the Wallabies at home. Instead, they were lucky to come out with a draw. 

But while the problems on the field are things that can be resolved, there is too much uncertainty off of it at the moment. 

Since the beginning of his tenure in 2016, Coetzee's backroom staff has been a bit of a "bed and breakfast", with people coming and going. 

He started with Mzwandile Stick as his attack coach and Jacques Nienaber as his defence coach, but by the end-of-year tour those roles had been filled by Franco Smith and JP Ferreira, respectively. 

Then, at the start of 2017, it was confirmed that Brendan Venter had come on board as a defence and exits consultant, despite being contracted to Italy until the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

This meant that, less than a year into the job, Coetzee had already worked alongside three different management teams. 

And the changes are far from over. 

Rassie Erasmus is heading to South Africa to take up a Director of Rugby role and reports last week suggested that current Bok assistant, Johann van Graan, was on his way to Munster to take over from Erasmus. 

With Italy remaining adamant that Venter will return to them, Coetzee looks set to start 2018 - provided he is still in a job - with his fourth management team. 

Ever since the start of the year, and specifically after the Boks swept aside the French and Argentinians, Coetzee has spoken about the value of having had time to prepare ahead of this international season. 

The side, he says, is on the right track and the longer they all spend together, the more they will improve. 

But surely it is difficult to stick to a process or a long-term plan when there are such constant changes in backroom staff?

Erasmus was quoted in Irish media on Monday as saying that he is not even in contact with anyone at the Boks yet while it is still unclear exactly when he will start. 

Venter, meanwhile, has said that he is prepared to help out the Boks for as long as he is needed. 

There is just too much confusion, with uncertainty surrounding the Bok futures of Van Graan, Venter and even Coetzee, while just how Erasmus will fit in when he arrives is also unclear. 

When probed on the Van Graan issue after Saturday's match, Coetzee was riled. It clearly hit a nerve, but that wasn't the only time he got animated in Bloemfontein. 

He was equally defensive when asked about his treatment of wing Raymond Rhule and then he was again unnecessarily confrontational when asked to comment on the impressive performance of Courtnall Skosan on Saturday.

"After you guys said he was average last time ... you said our wingers weren't playing well, so I'm happy that you guys are also happy with them," Coetzee said in a tone that was drenched in sarcasm. 

He is either getting 'gatvol' with having to defend himself all the time, or he is finally starting to feel the pressure.

Either way, Coetzee is not coming across as the composed, clear-headed figure he was at the Stormers and at the beginning of his Bok reign. 

And, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the leadership of this team at the moment, who can blame him?

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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