Allister Coetzee’s team reached their lowest point in a listless performance, in which they seemed devoid of ideas on how to deal with Italy’s rush defence, saw them go down to the Azzurri for the first time in 13 Tests.
Tries by Willie le Roux – who was one of the few shining lights – and Damian de Allende were two stand-out moments in what was an otherwise deplorable showing by a Bok side who lacked the stomach for the physical contest upfront and couldn’t outwit the Italians with their attacking play either.
The latest defeat sees Coetzee with a record of seven defeats in 11 Tests, but Alexander said in a statement after the match that SA Rugby are intent on looking at the overall picture of the sport, which started with the coaches indaba held in Cape Town last month.
“The whole of South African rugby is extremely disappointed with this year’s Springbok results and deeply worrying aspects of the performances. It has not been good enough and no one is pretending otherwise,” Alexander said.
“We have a minimum target of winning three out of (every) four Test matches each season – which is better than the historical record – but we have not come close this season.
“It would be easy to lay the blame for that at one door or another and look for scapegoats but it would also be an over-simplification. All of us within South African rugby need to look at ourselves and ask what we could have done differently in aid of the Springbok cause.
“Those questions will be asked at the end of the season when we will undertake a full review of the year and what new interventions may be needed to turn things around. We began that work recently with the coaching indaba. It set out to align national and Super Rugby coaches on the technical, tactical and conditioning requirements to succeed in 2017 and beyond.”
That seems to suggest that Coetzee may escape the axe in the immediate future, but his poor record in charge is unacceptable, with defeats to Argentina, England and now Italy the major flashpoints.
What has counted against the 53-year-old Coetzee was his late appointment in mid-April – just two months before the first Irish Test – as well as the haphazard nature in which his management team was assembled.
The only man he chose in his support staff is forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, with all of Johann van Graan, Mzwandile Stick and Jacques Nienaber (initially, before being replaced by Chean Roux) being foisted upon him by SA Rugby.
That saw the governing body acceding to Coetzee’s request to bolster the coaching department by bringing in Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith and Lions defence guru JP Ferreira for the November tour.
But Coetzee has only himself to blame for some puzzling selection calls throughout 2016, as well as the conservative game plan that has become entrenched.
A refusal to move with the times and adopt a more attacking mindset has seen the Boks struggle to unlock opposition defences, and that was evident once more at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence on Saturday as the South Africans used their traditional tactic of lineout mauls and one-off forward runners around the corner.
Despite having enough possession, the backs also couldn’t make the most of their try-scoring opportunities, with Le Roux’s individual brilliance leading to Bryan Habana and Damian de Allende’s touchdowns.
But Alexander also pointed to the issue of overseas-based players as one of the problems that has affected the Boks negatively.
“No group of individuals is more concerned or disappointed right now than the Springbok team and management. We know they are better than this,” he said.
“We also have to review such things as how we manage the fact that so many of our leading players are now based outside South Africa and more are being lured there.
“After that, it is our job to take steps to do as much as we possibly can to make sure we are not in a similar position in 12 months’ time. Our focus is on solutions and finding answers to our current problems.
“We have a Test against Wales on Saturday, and then we will review the season and spend time determining a path for the future.”
Original source: Saru to hold full review, but is Bok coach safe?