With exactly three months to go before the first Test against Ireland at Newlands, the Boks are still without a coach after Heyneke Meyer quit in December, although he wasn’t likely to have his contract renewed anyway.
Allister Coetzee is the firm favourite to take over the hot seat, despite clamours for Rassie Erasmus or Johan Ackermann to be appointed.
Saru president Oregan Hoskins said in a statement on Friday afternoon that they have already identified a “preferred candidate”, but that a final decision will rest with the General Council at the AGM on April 1 at a hotel in Newlands.
“The High Performance committee examined a list of potential coaches and identified their preferred candidate against a set of pre-determined criteria,” Hoskins said.
“In broad terms, we were looking for someone with a proven track record at an elite level; someone who would embrace the objectives of our Strategic Transformation Plan and someone who would understand the public demands of the job and what that entails.
“The Executive Council accepted the High Performance committee’s recommendation some time ago, and the preferred candidate’s name will now be set before the General Council.”
Coetzee would be the only viable candidate against that set of criteria as he achieved considerable success with the Stormers despite not winning the Super Rugby trophy.
In six seasons from 2010 to 2015 under Coetzee, the Stormers reached the final once, two semi-finals and reached the playoff qualifier in his final campaign last year.
The 52-year-old former Saru captain and scrumhalf also had an excellent transformation record, having brought through a number of top-class black players such as Gio Aplon, Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds, Juan de Jongh, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr and Scarra Ntubeni.
And in terms of public demands, Coetzee is well-versed in dealing with outside pressure as the Cape rugby fraternity is the most demanding in the country, and expectations are through the roof.
If Coetzee does get the nod, it will be interesting to see who he appoints as his assistants. He has had a long-standing partnership with Matt Proudfoot as his forwards coach, and even took the former tighthead prop with him to his current post at Kobe Steelers in Japan.
But it is understood that Saru renewed the contract of Johann van Graan, who was in charge of the forwards and the attack under Meyer, in recent months. Perhaps Van Graan would be tasked with just the backline and attack, which would allow Proudfoot to come in as the forwards mentor.
Coetzee’s ex-Stormers backline lieutenant Robbie Fleck is now the head coach of the franchise and wouldn’t want to give up that job to be an assistant again as the Boks’ backline and attack coach.
Springbok Tests for 2016
June 11: Ireland, Newlands (5pm)
June 18: Ireland, Johannesburg (5pm)
June 25: Ireland, Port Elizabeth (5pm)
August 20: Argentina, Nelspruit (5pm)
August 27: Argentina, time and venue TBC (away)
September 10: Australia, Brisbane (time TBC)
September 17: New Zealand, Christchurch (time TBC)
October 1: Australia, Pretoria (5pm)
October 8: New Zealand, Durban (5pm)
End-of-Year Tour (additional fixtures TBC)
November 12: England, London (time TBC)
November 26: Wales, Cardiff (time TBC)
Original source: New Bok coach on April Fools’ Day