Coetzee will fight until the end

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Coetzee is not going down without a fight, despite the Boks suffering a record eighth defeat of the year against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

That is the worst return by any Springbok coach in his first year in charge as well, and it is understood that he is under immense pressure to hold on to his job.

Captain Adriaan Strauss said after the Wales Test that he had attended a meeting between Coetzee, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander and Jurie Roux following the disastrous 20-18 defeat to Italy in Florence to discuss the 2016 season, and the coach feels that structural issues contributed significantly to the Boks’ dramatic fall from grace.

“It is a very difficult time for us as management staff and players. We obviously live in a country where results are important for the national team, and we are definitely not proud about the way this season has gone,” Coetzee said.

“But this is, maybe in hindsight – if you look at this year, not ideal, definitely not. It is way below what is expected of the Springbok team.

"But hopefully the start of a greater time and place to get SA rugby back on track again. And not fix the cracks, but make sure that we fix it from the core.

“I am pleased to note that the indaba has been taken seriously. If you look at Springbok level alone, it’s not just where the problems are.

"Our Under-20s have under-performed this year - lost by big margins against Argentina in the playoffs. So, it is the right time to start working together and fix things in South African rugby.”

Alexander announced a number of measures that have been planned to address the shortcomings at the Boks and SA Rugby in an administrative sense, with further indabas to be held between the Bok coaching staff and Super Rugby coaches, as well as discussions on fitness and conditioning.

But he insisted that the “No 1 priority is a turnaround strategy for the Springbok team, and that will be looked at immediately and decisively”.

A General Council meeting set for 9 December could decide Coetzee’s fate, as the council – made up of the 14 provincial unions and Saru executive – holds the power to hire and fire coaches.

The coach, though, believes that the debates that began at last month’s indaba need to be continued and plans hatched to resurrect professional rugby in South Africa.

“We’ve spoken about the skill level of players at the indaba, and I don’t think the international level is where you hone skills. It should be working together with the franchises, where the players spend 38 weeks with the franchises and only 12 weeks with the international team…” Coetzee said.

“That is also where we realised that it’s not just the job of the Springbok coach to up-skill the players, but that it should be a collective effort, from all coaches. But again, there are no excuses that will soothe the pain that we’ve experienced this year.

“We need to get the standards up, as that will never go away. We’ve got a passionate nation and they expect that. The Springbok stands for excellence.

"So we’ve got to make sure that whatever systems we put in place, it will give the players and everyone the platform to achieve excellence, and set the players and everyone in the team up for that. Definitely not lower the expectations.”

And despite sticking with a large number of overseas-based players for 11 out of his 12 Tests in charge, Coetzee believes that the team can be competitive with players based in South Africa – citing the example of flank Uzair Cassiem, who “really impressed” the coach.

Just Johan Goosen and Steven Kitshoff of Saturday’s match-23 play for foreign clubs, with Coetzee having stated previously that there are plans to bring the former Stormers prop back home, while Goosen has also expressed his desire to play in South Africa in a recent interview.

A policy around overseas-based players who have a certain amount of caps being eligible for selection will also be weighed up.

“I’m pleased with the young players that came through. I’m pleased that there will have to be - and it’s also in the statement - a firm decision on what we are going to do with our overseas-based players versus the home-based players. If we get decisions based on a few things, it will see some progress,” Coetzee said.

“(Picking only SA-based players) That’s a decision we have to make, but I still feel that we can be competitive. You’ve got to weigh up having more time to spend with the same team and preparing the same team, compared to a team that comes in a week before a Test.

“Surely, in no time, giving those young players the necessary exposure, they will get up to speed. The other side of the coin is that we will have to be creative in some ways. I know it’s difficult to compete against the pound and euro to retain players in our country.”

Cape Times

Original source: Coetzee will fight until the end

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