While preparations for the 2018 rugby season have stepped up a gear, Springbok fans are still patiently waiting on news regarding the position of head coach Allister Coetzee.
Talks behind the scenes suggest Coetzee will get the boot, with the likely scenario being that Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s new director of rugby, takes over as head coach.
Legal matters regarding Coetzee’s contract appear to be stalling the process.
For Springbok fans, the sooner the matter gets resolved, the better.
The Boks endured a torrid two years under Coetzee’s guidance, winning only 11 of 25 Tests. It translates to a meagre 44% win record - well below the acceptable 65% barometer a Springbok coach normally adheres to.
Bok fans deserve much better!
On the domestic front, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings enjoyed a small break over the festive period before resuming their PRO14 duties, while the country’s four Super Rugby outfits - the Lions, Stormers, Sharks and Bulls - are already hard at work preparing for what will be a revamped competition featuring only 15 teams.
The 2018 Super Rugby product is expected to be a tad more credible.
On the Sevens front, the Blitzboks are bracing for the Sydney Sevens, which is scheduled for this weekend, with Neil Powell’s men eager to make up for the disappointment of not winning the Cape Town Sevens in December.
Looking at the next 12 months, I have drawn up a wish list for the season ahead:
- The Bok coaching matter gets resolved soonest
Coetzee needs to realise his time as national coach is up. It is in the best interests for South African rugby that he moves on - a 44% win percentage can never be defended and very few fans and pundits believe the Boks will stand a chance under his helm at the next World Cup.
England coach Eddie Jones said at the end of last year how eager he was for them to win a maiden Test series in South Africa and his eagerness was on display earlier this month when he visited these shores to gather more information on the three Test venues.
Jones’ preparation is in stark contrast to the Springboks who still don’t know who their head coach will be.
- An improved Super Rugby effort from SA contingent
The Lions were beaten finalists in last year’s event, but the rest of the South African contingent were nothing more than also rans.
Yes, the Stormers and Sharks made the playoffs, but they never appeared serial title contenders.
With only four SA teams taking part, the country’s strength will be less diluted which could mean more admirable performances against the pace-setting Kiwi teams.
- SA Rugby scraps its 30-Test rule
A big reason why the Springboks are struggling is because there are hundreds (more than 350) of top notch players plying their trade abroad.
SA Rugby’s policy of only picking overseas Boks with 30 or more Test caps outside a World Cup year will continue to harm the national team.
As things stand, the Bok coach is unable to pick players of the calibre of Ruan Ackermann, Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach and Vincent Koch to name a few.
It will hurt the national team’s cause!
- The Kings mess is sorted!
The Southern Kings have lost all 13 of their PRO14 matches and are becoming an embarrassment for SA Rugby in Europe.
Lack of funding has no doubt crippled the franchise and help from abroad appears the only answer.
A recent visit by German billionaire Hans-Peter Wild - who owns French club Stade Francais - raised eyebrows in the friendly city and major investments may be the only salvation for the crippling franchise.
- Blitzboks defend their title, with a sponsor...
The Blitzboks are a highly professional outfit and I expect them to overcome the hiccup of not winning the Cape Town Sevens.
Neil Powell is a shrewd coach and the structures he’s put in place for Sevens is an example for the rest of the local rugby fraternity.
There’s no reason why the Blitzboks can’t win their third World Rugby Sevens Series title in the 2017/18 campaign (previous wins came in the 2008/09 and 2016/17 seasons).
The Blitzboks are also unfortunate to have lost their sponsor following the Steinhoff debacle but given their successes it shouldn’t take long for a new sponsor to come on board.
- A Bok win over the All Blacks
Apart from their recent woes, the Boks proved last year that they can still be a handful when they put their minds to it.
The 25-24 loss to the All Blacks at Newlands was one that got away and it’s now four years - and six Tests - since the Boks last grabbed a win over their old rivals.
One can only hope...
- Griquas, Pumas to play in Europe
Late last year SA Rugby announced that Griquas and the Pumas had earned franchise status which gives them the opportunity to play in competitions abroad.
There are talks that the two unions could enter Europe’s Anglo-Welsh Cup, which is a knock-out competition featuring the 12 English Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions.
With the Cheetahs and Kings already in the PRO14, it would see South Africa field four teams in both hemispheres.
This could in part stem the outflux of players abroad but would hopefully make the country’s rugby administrators realise that there’s no room for more than eight professional unions - and not 14 as is currently the case.
- Decide on a way forward for the Currie Cup
At present it looks likely that the Currie Cup will be contested over a single round, with the same seven provinces competing in the Premier Division.
Last year there was the unfortunate scenario of the event overlapping with Super Rugby, which forced the Lions and Sharks to field weakened teams in the early rounds.
This scenario needs to be avoided at all costs.
The competition is already hamstrung by the lack of Springbok representation and now risks losing even more appeal.
With the Cheetahs and Kings playing PRO14 - and the Pumas and Griquas possibly also joining a European event - the Currie Cup could be dying a slow death.
The tournament remains the breeding ground of talent and is a vital stepping stone for players heading into Super Rugby.
In my book, the old six-team strength versus strength Premier Division - with a double round of matches - is the most favourable.
Herman Mostert works at Sport24, is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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