Coetzee’s man for top Bok job

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The South African Rugby Union (Saru) said it would not open the process of finding a coach to everyone but would rather headhunt the man who will be tasked with taking the Springboks into a new and hopefully successful era.

While many diehard fans may believe the time has come for some foreign intervention at the helm of the Springboks, the truth of the matter is that South African rugby is not yet ready for a foreigner to take over the reins.

It’s a complex and dynamic situation which has been poisoned by age-old politics ranging from the balance of power among the big five unions (the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State) with their smaller affiliates to Saru’s standing with government especially on the thorny issue of transformation.

It is because of such issues that Saru is likely to go with a man who understands the madness of the merry-go-round in South Africa and is also capable of delivering at the highest level of the game.

As tricky as Saru’s position might be, it also knows that one candidate stands out from the rest and the sooner it contacts Coetzee and comes to an agreement, the better – and work can begin to restore the bruised ego of Springbok rugby.

While Meyer may have been the overwhelming favourite in certain quarters to succeed World Cup winning coach Jake White post-2007, he failed to live up to the expectation of his praise-singers.

The Springboks finished third at the Rugby World Cup last year after a shock defeat to Japan in the opening round of the tournament.

Meyer not only engineered one of the darkest hours in Springbok rugby at the World Cup but his frailties as a coach came to the fore two months before the tournament as the Springboks suffered their first defeat at the hands of Argentina in Durban and also finished at the bottom of the Rugby Championship without a single victory.

That alone would have been enough grounds for him not to have his contract renewed but Meyer was also his own worst enemy with his inability to place enough faith in black players, even though he had more players to choose from than his predecessors.

Meyer may be in the past now but the same issues that dogged the latter years of his tenure are still at Saru’s doorstep.

If it is experience, a credible coaching record, silverware and the right skin colour that Saru is looking for, then it must be Coetzee.

The other candidate who understands South African rugby with enough international experience would have been New Zealander John Mitchell, but he excluded himself by taking up the job as head coach of the US recently.

If, indeed, Coetzee is unveiled as the new Springbok coach and only the second black one after Peter de Villiers, then Springbok rugby will be on the road to restoring their dignity on the field.

First up will be the task of building a new culture within the team and finding a new captain who will lead the side in what will be a fiercely contested inbound tour by Ireland in June.

Then there will be some demons to exorcise in the Rugby Championship as the competition returns to its normal home-and-away format after a shortened version last year because of the World Cup.

At the top of the list in the Rugby Championship is the task of re-establishing the team as the best in the southern hemisphere, which will automatically translate to the unofficial title of being the best team in the world.

In order to be the best team in the world, the Springboks will need to topple New Zealand off their perch and win the competition, a feat the Springboks have not managed to do since Argentina joined the fray four years ago.

If the Springboks win the series against the Irish, go on to win the Rugby Championship and beat the All Blacks, something they have only done once in the past four years, then what will be left for them will be to conquer Europe in the hope that a Grand Slam tour is on the horizon.

There is enough young talent to build on in the Springbok team that finished third at the World Cup – players who can dominate the world but who will require the calmness and mental fortitude that Coetzee showed while at the Stormers – and the maturity to seek foreign intervention as White did by bringing in Eddie Jones as a technical adviser at the 2007 World Cup.

Coetzee has seen it all and almost done it all. But it will be up to him, if appointed, to put to bed the misconception that skin colour and performance go hand in hand.

The time has come for Coetzee to show he can be his own man but, more importantly, for the Springboks to reclaim their place as one of the most feared teams in the world and capture some silverware.


Original source: Coetzee’s man for top Bok job

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