Lloyd Burnard

Coetzee has to go? No complaints here ...

2016-11-21 08:07
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - Coming up with words to describe what was one of the poorest displays in Springbok history has been no easy feat. 

Woeful, embarrassing, incompetent, putrid, pathetic, sorry, miserable, wretched  ... none of those words begin to do justice to the feeling that currently accompanies what was a once-proud Springbok brand. 

When the Boks lost to Japan at the 2015 World Cup last year, there was a collective understanding that Heyneke Meyer should not be entrusted with a contract extension beyond the tournament. That result, alone, sealed his fate on some level. 

Why, then, should it be any different for Allister Coetzee? 

He has shot himself in the foot, and after a result like this any small chance he had of winning over his critics has disappeared. 

The Springboks simply can't lose to minnows, and when they do, there needs to be consequences. 

Italy were ranked 13th in the world going into this weekend, behind the likes of Georgia, Japan and Fiji.

In Meyer's defence, the Boks bounced back at last year's World Cup and came within a couple of points of upsetting the All Blacks in the semi-finals. Right now, it is hard to see Coetzee doing the same with this Springbok team. 

In sport, and in life, accountability is so important. There are few things worse than a friend, or a boss or a relative, who can never admit when he or she is wrong. 

In the company of these folk, and we all have them, honest discussions can never happen and the real route of a problem can never be identified. Instead, the conversation dances around in circles, with fingers pointing in every direction but where the fault lies. 

Putting your hand up when you're wrong provides a level of transparency and builds trust, and it is time for SA Rugby to do just that.

Last week I wrote in this column that Coetzee should be given another year at the helm before any ideas of him being sacked materialised.   

It just seemed too soon. I have always been a believer that any coach in any team needs to be given a real crack at a job before the plug is pulled. 

Coetzee was appointed very late in the year, he has not had much time with the players, he was expected to instantly transform the Springbok style into something attractive and entertaining and he had no say in appointing half of his coaching staff.

Those were the major stumbling blocks, and I felt that Coetzee deserved a real chance to figure all of it out. I wrote that, despite it being a terrible year for South African rugby, things had not quite reached crisis point yet. 

Then, Saturday happened.

Italy was to be the perfect platform for the Boks to score some tries and find their feet ... a welcomed little confidence booster in the middle of the toughest of seasons. 

There was a hope that it would be the catalyst for the Coetzee revival, but instead it was the final nail in the coffin. 

There are certain results in sport that can never be excused, and this is one of them. 

Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Damian de Allende, Willem Alberts, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira ... this is just some of the star power the Boks boasted on Saturday. 

Individually, those names have been considered among the best in the world at different stages in their careers, but collectively they looked like a tier-two nation in Florence.

Regardless of what is going on behind the scenes at SA Rugby, and regardless of what other challenges there are facing the Boks, a world class coach should have been able to secure a win over Italy with those players. 

Coetzee could not do that, and that removes any glimmer of hope that he is the guy to turn this ship around. 

On their finest day, the Italians still don't have the quality to seriously challenge the best in the world. Their record over the years confirms that. Yet, on Saturday, they wanted it more than their opposition, were better than their opposition and their win was fully deserved as a result. 

I half expected Coetzee to resign immediately after the match. He didn't, of course, and says that he won't.

SA Rugby needs to step in and make a big decision.

There are certain results that simply cannot go unpunished, and this is one of them. 

In the same way that I have to hold my hands up and admit that I got it wrong last week, SA Rugby has to acknowledge fault on the Coetzee appointment. 

Regardless of what happens against Wales next weekend, the Boks will finish the year with a win record of below 50%, but the scariest part is that they could not beat Italy. 

The only positive is that it all happened so quickly. 

It's a shame. This gig was a dream come true for Coetzee, and he will be hurting more than anyone. 

But when there is an entire nation of supporters expecting more from their once beloved team, then the feelings of one man hardly seem important. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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