Sick Boks need more than a new doctor

Mark Keohane (File)
Mark Keohane (File)

Munster coach and the (then) South African Rugby Union’s High Performance Director, Rassie Erasmus, agreed to the Springbok job in 2016, but his rugby coaching skills and expertise were secondary to self-serving and self-protecting leadership decisions.

Transformation is the easy cop out as to why Allister Coetzee was named Springbok coach in 2016. It is also not necessarily accurate because the devil is always in the detail and the detail of this transaction was devoid of integrity and morality. It also had nothing to do with a rugby coaching decision.

A more accurate reason would be gutless leadership and irresponsible decision-making of the game’s leadership.

Here’s how the situation played out in 2015.

Heyneke Meyer was promised a four-year extension as Springbok coach, regardless of the outcome of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. This decision was made as early as April 2015.

Meyer’s Boks then imploded in the 2015 Rugby Championship where they didn’t win a game and they lost at home to Argentina.

Meyer’s Boks were seen as white and dinosaurs and typically the World Cup allowed for the lack of Springbok black player representation to be translated as a lack of transformation in South African rugby.

It also allowed for the government to take aim at a losing white-dominated Bok team. Meyer was an easy target.

SARU’s leadership, apathetic for two decades in enforcing tangible transformation, sacrificed Meyer, and their only survival as a leadership was to promise the government (by way of the Minister of Sport) that Meyer’s successor would not be white.

Enter Coetzee as the leadership’s new-found commitment to transformation.

Enter all the propaganda about a transformed Springbok future on the basis of 13 players of colour in an extended squad of 31.

Enter another of those transformation lies because when the Boks beat Ireland in Port Elizabeth, 12 white players were on the field at the final whistle. When they lost to the All Blacks in Durban there were also minimal black players on the field. Coetzee failed to meet his transformation targets in two thirds of the season’s Tests and the Boks also lost two thirds of these Tests.

Coetzee blamed everyone and everything but himself for the horror season.

There was - and never has been - any accountability for the appointment and the reasons behind the appointment. There has also been no consequence to those who made the appointment.

Coetzee remains because there was no performance-based clause in his contract and because to pay out the remaining three years of his contract would cost R13 million.

He remains the Bok coach and so do those who made the business decision to give him the job for four years.

The kick in the guts to every South African rugby loyalist is if they can’t afford to get rid of mediocrity (in Coetzee) then they can’t afford to invest in excellence (in Erasmus). Munster would have to be paid out for Erasmus' remaining two years and Erasmus would have to be paid as Bok coach.

Money is now the reason. Transformation, a year ago, was the reason. Rugby is never the reason. Those making these absurd business decisions are never the reason.


Who made the original decisions?

Why the secrecy? Why no transparent audit?

The answer is because elected officials govern and destroy. Our rugby burns while these emperors appear oblivious to their naked state.

It is disgusting because if rugby was the primary motivator then the Springboks would be treated as a sporting extension of all that is inspiring and the head coach would be an extension of all that was and could be inspiring.

The situation is distasteful.

It is also demeaning to the loyal Springbok supporter who is refused information and access to process and transparency.

Who appoints the Springbok coach?

What is their qualification to make the appointment?

What is the consequence to them getting it wrong and what is the incentive to them getting it right?

What are the Key Performance Indicators?

Coetzee is not the villain here. Those who made the mistake in hiring him are the bad guys. They are also cowards because they hide from scrutiny.

Springbok rugby, because of these men, is in ill health and the irony is that the only one to get the axe is the team doctor. That emphasises just how sick it all is.

Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter

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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