It hasn’t quite set on Allister Coetzee’s time as coach, even with a dreadful 36 percent winning average after seven defeats in 11 Tests in 2016.
The 53-year-old Bok boss didn’t call it quits in the aftermath of the 20-18 loss to Italy, and judging from SA Rugby president Mark Alexander’s statement after the match, the governing body may not let him go immediately either.
A ‘full review’ of the 2016 Bok season will take place after Saturday’s final Test against Wales in Cardiff, but Alexander made mention of the coaching indaba that was held in October, and how it “would be easy to lay the blame for (the poor record) at one door or another and look for scapegoats”.
Asked if he would consider resigning, and whether he is the right man to take the Boks forward, Coetzee said: “That is out of my hands. But definitely not Springbok standard. Definitely, I’d say, probably the darkest moment of my coaching career - toughest. But I don’t want to look at it emotionally now, because emotions are high. It’s a really difficult position to be in. Not easy.
“I still think so (that he is the right man). And to be honest, and you can speak to the captain here, I don’t think I’ve lost the change room, definitely not. For our guys, there’s a mountain to climb, and I suppose as a group, we’ve got to take full responsibility. Start digging, and get us out of that hole.”
Coetzee said it was “embarrassing” to see the Boks butcher a number of try-scoring opportunities inside the Italian 22, particularly from line-out drives. He pointed out Patrick Lambie being brought down just short of the line, while the misunderstanding between Francois Venter and Warren Whiteley saw another chance lost.
But he doesn’t think the overall game plan is the problem, or that there is an issue on attack. “When I look at the first 30 minutes of the game, and you see the opportunities that we had, then I can’t believe it - then I am also in disbelief like you. Why are we not taking those opportunities? And why can’t we round off? And why can’t we finish scoring opportunities?
“If you ask me, a five-man overlap against two or one guy, how can’t we score? I don’t have the answer for you. Sometimes it is perpetuated by wrong decisions,” Coetzee said.
“Credit to their defence. They didn’t just have a good shape on defence, they were quite physical in their hits as well. And it does make it a bit difficult in wet conditions. If they had scored tries from running rugby, then I could understand and say There was definitely something wrong with our attack.”
Coetzee stated previously that he had initiated the rugby indaba, where issues such as conditioning, dealing with fundamentals such as defence, the high ball and set-pieces were discussed with the six Super Rugby coaches, former Bok coaches and players and the chief executives.
That process is set to continue in the months to come, but there is still a Test match to be played this weekend. Wales will look to repeat their 2014 triumph over the Boks at the Millennium Stadium, but Coetzee will have to find some way to lift the players.
It is unclear whether there were any injury concerns after the Italy game, but flank Willem Alberts did leave the field in the second half clutching his shoulder.
Star lock Eben Etzebeth might be over his concussion, suffered against England, to bolster the tight five in what will be another tough physical examination.
But while exciting talents such as Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Jamba Ulengo are waiting for their opportunities, don’t expect drastic changes when Coetzee names his team on Thursday.
“I’ve got to look at what is coming again from the Welsh. And like this week, I thought we had it spot-on, just building that continuity, because that is what we have battled with - starting against England with nine changes from the one that played against the Barbarians,” he said.
“But in certain positions, yes, I have to see how certain players respond.”
Original source: Bok coach baffled after Italy defeat