Allister Coetzee’s firing has nothing to do with race and everything to do with results.
If his Springboks had a 65 percent-plus win ratio then there would be no discussion about Coetzee’s failing and pending firing.
Coetzee would have been lauded for his results, but the reality is that in the two seasons he has been in charge of the Springboks he has failed dismally. His results have not been good enough and he has also failed to deliver a transformed Springbok run-on XV.
Coetzee’s transformation record is as poor (and poorer) than his predecessors.
Professional sport is about results and Coetzee has not delivered those to his employers or the rugby public.
His first year in charge was abysmal and he survived because he cried foul of having a support staff forced on him, a lack of preparation time and whatever other external excuse he could find.
In 2017 he got the support staff he wanted; he got the training camps he wanted; he got all the external support he needed; he was given and afforded every opportunity to create an environment in which to succeed. His team failed the big Tests - and failed them big.
Coetzee’s letter to South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux and the Executive, published on Sport24 over the weekend, is one sorry excuse after the other and shows absolute lack of accountability from Coetzee. His letter read like the transcripts of his press conferences post every embarrassing Springboks defeat over the past two years.
His belief that it is an insult for him to report to a national director of rugby (in Rassie Erasmus) is in itself an insult to Erasmus, who has done Coetzee no harm and has at no stage in the past two years aimed any public criticism at Coetzee.
At a time when past and present South African rugby coaches were swinging at Coetzee’s incompetency in selection, game strategy and results, Erasmus was absent in all critique.
He simply got on with his job as Munster director of rugby, in which he had assumed the head coaching job after Anthony Foley’s death.
Erasmus combined both roles and took Munster to a Champions Cup semi-final, where they lost to eventual winners Saracens and also the PRO12 final after topping the league table.
Erasmus’s record for Munster in the PRO12 is the most successful among Irish provinces in the history of the competition, eclipsing Irish coach Joe Schmidt’s overall winning percentage with Leinster.
Erasmus also won eight from 10 matches in the Champions Cup.
He has been coaching professionally since the age of 30 after injury ended a very successful Test career with the Springboks. Erasmus has all the credentials to head up rugby in South Africa. He has done his apprenticeship locally and abroad over the last 15 years and had success wherever he has gone.
Coetzee’s fight should be with those who employed him and not Erasmus.
What is obvious though is that Coetzee will not work with Erasmus and post his emotional and vitriolic rant to Roux (by a legally drafted letter) there is no way Erasmus will work with Coetzee. The relationship between Roux and Coetzee is also non-existent and the refusal of Coetzee to front any form of responsibility for having the worst Springbok coaching record (for coaches with 10-plus Tests) makes it impossible for him to continue in any capacity within South African rugby’s national structures.
Coetzee speaks of integrity and dignity but if that was at the heart of his motivation he would have settled on a dignified exit post the awful tour of Europe last November, which included a record 38-3 defeat against Ireland and also a second successive defeat against Wales in Cardiff.
Coetzee says it is not about the money but his rugby coaching reputation. It is all about the money because his rugby coaching reputation is in tatters following 11 wins from 25 Tests.
Coetzee will be fired this week because his win percentage is 44, he oversaw the first ever home defeat against Ireland, a record away defeat against Ireland, two successive defeats against Wales in Cardiff, the first ever away defeat against the Pumas in Argentina and the first ever defeat against Italy. He will be fired because he managed just one win against Australia in four Tests and none against the All Blacks in four Tests. He will be fired because in his first three Tests against the All Blacks his teams conceded 151 points and scored 28 and leaked 23 tries and scored one.
He will be fired - and rightly so - because of performance. It has nothing to do with culture, colour or his drink of choice.
The South African Rugby Union will in all probability cough up more than they should once the labour law legalities come into play, but every extra cent spent on getting him as far away from the Springboks in 2018 will be well spent.
This week’s announcement that Coetzee is out and Erasmus is in as Springbok coach can’t come soon enough.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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