‘This is not the standard of Springbok Rugby’

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Strauss played his last Test for the Springboks in their 27-13 loss against Wales on Saturday and is adamant that he will voice his concerns about the side’s woeful season in the right forum.

However, Strauss diplomatically sidestepped the issue surrounding Coetzee’s future even though he said that Coetzee is a competent coach and a good man.

Coetzee’s reign as Springbok coach has been dogged by the team dipping to new lows including a first ever home defeat to Ireland, a first loss to Argentina in South America, a record loss at the hands of arch rivals the All Blacks at home, a first ever loss to Italy, a first defeat against England in a decade and a winless northern hemisphere tour.

While Coetzee remained defiant when the team touched down on South African soil on Monday, it was Strauss’ lack of endorsement for Coetzee’s continued tenure that left more questions than answers on one of the Springboks worst seasons.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for coach Allister, he’s a really good coach. I had challenges this year and he had a lot more challenges. It was a tough job this year but we’ll have good discussions. I think he is an excellent coach, I think he is a very good man and I think in tough circumstances he did very well. We’ll have open discussions with him as players, management and Saru and I think that is the right way to do it. I think he is a great coach and a good man,” was all that Strauss was willing to say.

Strauss, though, believes everyone within South African rugby needs to take responsibility for the worst season in Springbok rugby history and has called for frank, open and honest discussions amongst players, coaches and Saru if the Springboks are to get out of the deep, dark hole they find themselves at the moment.

“I think the players also need to take responsibility and so do the coaches. I think it is an all in effort and Saru as well, it’s not going to be one group that is going to change everything it’s going to be a collective. I can honestly say that with no ulterior motives that everyone needs to make a step up and be better. I think everyone has made mistakes this year and mistakes and players, management and Saru are all exposed. We are all responsible for this and there is no way of getting out of it. We need to face it and face up and everyone is going to have to do it,” Strauss said.

Never one to shy away from confrontation on the field, Strauss is ready to confront many of the issues that have hindered the team’s progress and has thrown down the gauntlet to the remaining players to lift the Springboks out of the rut and claim back the glory days.

Strauss is hopeful that the Springboks can turn things around and he will do everything in his powers in the next two months to help and has called on all the players to show character and fight back to regain the team’s dignity in world rugby.

“My message to the guys is that this is a tough time. What I demand of them is character, they need to stand up and they need to be backed, it’s a simple word but it means a lot. They need to fight back and they need to realize that this is not the standard of Springbok rugby. Everyone has their own ideas and big dreams but all they can do is do the best they can, fix what you need to do, be a better player and teammate and next year come back stronger and harder. I’m very hopeful of the future, there is a lot of talented players and a lot to be excited about. I’m willing and excited about contributing as a player as much as I can for the last month or two.”

As much as Strauss walks away from international rugby having reigned over one of the darkest hours of Springbok rugby, the blonde headed and often calm hooker says he leaves the job a better person and without regret after fronting up in the face of heavy criticism over his performances and that of the team.

“I learnt a lot about myself this year and I was definitely stretched. I’ve learnt what a responsibility it is to be Springbok captain and it doesn’t matter how tough it is and the amount of criticism, there is no pity party. I took the job, I’m responsible and accountable and here I stand and I will take full responsibility for the failures I had and I’m proud of the things I did well and myself,” concluded Strauss.

Independent Media

Original source: ‘This is not the standard of Springbok Rugby’

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