Johannesburg - The Springboks embarked on a four-match tour of Europe (Barbarians, England, Italy and Wales) on Friday after a Rugby Championship in which they won two of their six games.
Allister Coetzee told City Press what he had learnt from his nine games in charge, five of which were lost.
As former assistant Springbok coach, you’ve always known the head coach job is a tough one. Has it been tougher than you imagined?
It is two different worlds. Being an assistant coach in the past helped prepare me for this role. I worked with some exceptional head coaches in the past, and I’ve learnt a lot from each one of them.
You’ve been with a Bok team when the coach (Jake White after losing 49-0) was under pressure. What did you learn from that?
My philosophy is that whenever a team is under pressure, you must stand by your key values and culture, and focus on your basic fundamentals. The game of rugby is a challenging environment, and sound coaching principles are the key to long-term success.
What have you learnt about South Africa and Springbok rugby from your nine games in charge? Where are concerns and opportunities?
As a Springbok coach, you always start from zero, and there is always a lack of continuity, something that I highlighted at the indaba. We are a young team in transition due to the fact that after every Rugby World Cup cycle, there is a change of players, leadership and management.
We have a unique opportunity to create a team and culture all South Africans can associate with and be proud of. Evidence of this is the #Love-
Rugby campaign, where we’ve taken the team to the people. We also awarded several new caps, thereby creating new depth in the player group.
Do you have regrets about any of your decisions in the past nine games?
Hindsight is always an exact science. I have learnt a lot from these nine games. We don’t regret any decision because we believe we pick the best available team for every game, but we have learnt a lot of lessons about ourselves.
The recently held coaches’ indaba has been well received by the rugby fraternity. Who coordinates it to enforce the resolutions? And do you need a director of rugby for that?
I am coordinating the outcomes of the rugby indaba at the moment. There is a follow-up meeting in early December where we will expand on outcomes from the first meeting. I was very happy with the response and outcomes from our first meeting, as well as the cooperation from the Super Rugby franchises.
Has having to name two teams (one for the Barbarians game and one for the tests) distracted your preparations, or are you happy to have most of the talent available in South Africa under one roof, as it were?
It’s a great opportunity to increase our depth. Over a period of four weeks, I will be able to work with a group of 45 players, which I think will be invaluable for our succession planning.
There seems to be uncertainty about what the assistant coaches’ roles are. Please explain who is in charge of what.
There may be uncertainty in the media, but we have a coaches’ matrix that clarifies roles and responsibilities, and each management member is aware of his area of responsibility. There are clear reporting roles to the coach.
Captain Adriaan Strauss has three or four games left as a Springbok. Who are the candidates to replace him?
I will use the period up to next June to identify the next captain, but we currently have a leadership group that supports Adriaan.
Does the unavailability of the overseas-based players for the Barbarian game rob you of more time to prepare a first XV to play against England?
I always see the glass half full. This is a great opportunity to expose and develop our next generation of players.
What would constitute a good tour of Europe for you?
Previous tours have shown that margins of winning and losing in Europe are always close. We want to see massive improvement and progress from the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. We want to win every Test match we play, but there is no guarantee if you have a lot of experience missing.