Cape Town - What a difference a week makes!
Last week there were strong indications that Springbok coach Allister Coetzee would escape the axe.
The R13m cost to get rid of him was deemed too expensive for SA Rugby, with the plan for 2017 seemingly to allow the Bok mentor to surround himself with his desired team of assistants and advisors.
But it seems the powers that be may have made an about-turn and want Coetzee replaced - whatever the cost involved. This comes after SA Rugby’s executive council met over the past week to discuss the issue.
Rassie Erasmus has emerged as the man on Springbok rugby’s wanted list, with reports surfacing that a five-year deal may be offered to him to take charge of the national team.
Erasmus, however, appears to be a happy man at Munster in Ireland, where he signed a three-year deal as director of rugby after quitting as head of SA Rugby’s mobi-unit last year.
It would take a lot of persuasion and negotiating for him to pack up and return to employers he was keen to get away from mere months ago.
Whatever transpires, it’s in the best interests for Springbok rugby that a decision is made sooner rather than later.
It was worrisome to read this week that the Boks' biggest rivals, the All Blacks, had just completed a two-day camp.
The reigning world champions are set for a big season which includes a series against the British & Irish Lions, while back in SA the current national coach is unsure whether he’ll have a job by the time the French arrive for a three-Test series in June.
Coetzee, in part, blamed last year’s disastrous campaign on the fact that he was only appointed in April.
A re-occurrence in that regard should therefore be avoided at all costs and let’s hope SA Rugby sticks to its original intention of having the coaching saga sorted out by month’s end.
However, realistically speaking, if the decision is made not to retain Coetzee, it's highly unlikely that a new coach will be announced as early as February 1.
SHOULD COETZEE FACE THE AXE?
From a rugby perspective, it's fair to say that Springbok fans deserve a new coach for the national team.
The cracks began to show early in Coetzee’s tenure, and by the time the All Blacks crushed the Boks 57-15 in October, alarm bells were ringing loud and clear.
A disastrous year-end European tour, which included an embarrassing first ever loss to lowly Italy, was perhaps the final straw.
My feeling was that the loss to Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup cost Heyneke Meyer his position as head coach, despite his team rebounding to claim a bronze medal at the tournament.
The Boks lost a tense semi-final by two points to eventual champions New Zealand, but Meyer wasn't asked to stay on when his contract expired.
Coetzee’s men were hammered by the All Blacks and had there been a World Cup last year, then - given 2016's results - would in all likelihood have struggled to emerge from the group phase.
Consideration also needs to be given to the (very likely) scenario that Erasmus turns down any offer to coach the Boks.
Where would that leave SA Rugby? Do they opt for another coach or keep Coetzee for another year?
Would it be a healthy working environment for a coach who knows his employers do not view him as the right man for the job?
Of one thing I'm sure though: the Bok coaching announcement cannot come across as an April Fools' joke. By then, the coach should have his plans in place to avoid a repeat of what was a torrid 2016.
Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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