Lloyd Burnard

No excuses this time as AC eyes redemption

2017-03-09 11:12
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - Let's be very clear ... Allister Coetzee can consider himself extremely fortunate to still be Springbok coach. 

Forget the four from 12 and the losses at home to Ireland and away to Argentina. Those results, as bad as they were, might have been forgiven if some kind of improvement followed.

But it is that night in Florence that could, and perhaps should, have been the final nail in the coffin. 

The Boks, on their worst day, should never be a side that loses to Italy. Now, under Coetzee, they are exactly that side. Some coaches would have resigned after a result like that. Coetzee didn't. 

Instead, we demanded his head on a stake. The backlash was brutal. 

The Boks looked lost, and the way they played combined with Coetzee's puzzling team selections suggested that there was no clear plan. They were woeful, and while the results were reason enough for us to lose faith, it was the performances that were most concerning. 

The Boks started the Coetzee era as a side looking to play ball-in-hand rugby before going back to Morne Steyn as the flyhalf general. By the end of the year, after Coetzee had dropped Steyn, they looked like they were just rocking up and hoping it would happen. 

Now Coetzee is calling for a 'win at all costs' mentality - the brand of rugby has taken a back seat - and he has 'plans' in place that weren't there last year.

While he won’t use it as an excuse, Coetzee has more than once directed the conversation to his late appointment in 2016 in offering reasons for last year's struggles. He seems certain that 2017 will be a different story.

SA Rugby, for whatever reason, has decided to keep faith in Coetzee. 

Maybe they don't have the money to get anyone better, maybe they screwed up contractually or maybe they believe he is the right man for the job. Whatever the logic, the decision has been taken and Coetzee will be the man guiding the Boks into another seriously challenging year. 

France awaits in June, and if the rumour mill is to be believed, a series defeat there could spell the end for Coetzee. And so it should, if that happens. 

This time around, there can be no excuses. 

Coetzee has had three meetings with Super Rugby coaches since last October's 'Indaba', he has held a January training camp and he has a reshuffled coaching staff that is of his own making. 

If Brendan Venter joins that coaching team, as expected, then Coetzee will have a wealth of knowledge at his disposal. How he manages that knowledge could determine the year he has. 

Rightly or wrongly, Coetzee has a shot at redemption, and that is something that many coaches who failed the way he did last year are not given.

While it may be difficult given last year’s horror show, South African rugby fans need to throw their support behind the Boks in June.

There are many who have all but written them off, and there remains the feeling that some would rather see the Boks fail if it means that Coetzee loses his job.

That is not the right mentality.

But if the fans can stand alongside the Boks and their under-fire coach in this time of trouble, then SA Rugby needs to repay that loyalty with accountability. 

If, at the end of the France series, the Boks are dishing up the same horse manure they were throughout 2016, then somebody has to go. And that somebody will have to be Coetzee.

Come June, there will be a lot on the line.

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.

Read more on:    springboks  |  allister coetzee  |  rugby
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