Cape Town - Images of England coach Eddie Jones traveling around South Africa earlier this month, meeting with franchise coaches and getting a feel for the country's stadiums, show just how far behind the Springboks are.
England are in South Africa for three Test matches in June and Jones, with the blessing of the RFU, has already begun his preparation.
The Springboks, meanwhile, don't yet know who their coach will be when that series rolls around.
SA Rugby has failed to be transparent in its leadership, and it is not fair on the fans.
The confusion surrounding Allister Coetzee's future has hurt the image of the game’s administration, even if there have been complexities in the process.
More importantly, the whole ‘will they, won’t they?’ saga has done nothing to suggest that there is urgency in remedying the state of the national side before the 2019 World Cup.
It has simply taken too long.
South Africa's final Test of 2017 was a disappointing 24-22 loss to Wales in Cardiff on December 2.
That match, which capped off another poor end-of-year-tour for the national team, was widely reported to be Coetzee's last Test in charge of the Boks.
Rassie Erasmus was on his way to rescue the national team, and Coetzee would be on his bicycle back to Japan.
Since then, Erasmus has assembled a small coaching staff around him, but we are still in the dark when it comes to exactly how hands-on Erasmus will be and what his exact role will entail.
With Coetzee gone, will Erasmus effectively be the head coach? It seems so, but SA Rugby have said nothing as yet.
At the beginning of 2017 there was also uncertainty hovering over Coetzee, and it took SA Rugby until the end of February to publicly back their man for another year.
We cannot have a repeat of that in 2018.
The Boks are wounded and, in their current shape, stand no chance of competing for World Cup honours.
That tournament is less than two years away and the work needs to start now.
Sources have revealed to Sport24 that Coetzee’s sacking is almost certain, but that the process has been delayed because SA Rugby have been met by strong resistance from Coetzee.
The nature of his contract has made his dismisal complex.
It is never nice to see coaches clinging on, but the nature of professional sport is that when results aren’t delivered, the coach is the first to fall.
Football coaches often joke that they sign two contracts when taking over at a new club: one to say that they are hired and one to confirm that they will be fired.
Coetzee obviously missed the second contract, because by all accounts he is still holding on for dear life.
It's gone beyond being angry at Coetzee now.
For all of his struggles, the man’s passion could never be faulted and he always had the best interests of his side at heart. He wanted to succeed so badly ... it just hasn’t worked out that way.
But the South African public deserves to know what is going on behind closed doors. Without public support, the Boks are nothing and it is time that SA Rugby remembered that.
Excluding the very people that keep your brand alive cannot be a good idea, and right now South African rugby fans are completely in the dark.
They want answers, and they deserve answers.
SA Rugby needs to resolve this Coetzee issue as a matter of urgency, because it has already dragged on for far too long.
Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...
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