Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has sent a confidential distress signal to his bosses, calling for immediate aid.
With just three victories in seven tests since being appointed, Coetzee and the team are now in free fall and Springbok rugby has reached a new low.
City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport reports that Coetzee requested aid from the SA Rugby Union (Saru) in the form of assistant coach reinforcements.
The request is being handled as highly confidential and even secret, as it could reflect negatively on the current coaching staff and their work.
It is understood that the request was meant to be immediate and that Coetzee may already make use of temporary coaching specialists to assist him as early as next Saturday in the Boks’ test against Australia at Loftus Versfeld and the one against New Zealand in Durban the following week.
It is well known that the national coach did not have a say in the majority of appointments to his management team.
Even in Saru’s inner circles, there is a feeling that the Boks still have world-class players but, in most aspects of the game, do not get the best coaching.
In this year’s matches, the Springboks have only
lived up to their reputation as one of the world’s leading teams in two facets of the game – scrums and line-outs.
Johann van Graan and Matt Proudfoot are to thank for that, and both have the players’ respect.
For the rest, the Springboks’ weaknesses have
been exposed, first by the Irish, then by Argentina and more recently in the tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
The Boks’ backline, packed with star players on an international level, have so far managed to achieve very little on attack and defence.
Mzwandile Stick, as Coetzee’s backline specialist, is probably doing his best, but someone else – such as the Lions’ Swys de Bruin or Franco Smith from the Free State, or even “freelancer” Brendan Venter – is needed to sharpen the Boks’ attack.
The Boks’ pointless kicking in tests under Coetzee has mostly meant they have given away hard-won possession and have been forced to defend.
Louis Koen, who is supposed to help the Boks with kicking, has more administrative tasks to perform for his employer these days.
Chean Roux, who was recently appointed as Coetzee’s defence specialist, is one of the best rugby brains in South Africa, but he has no experience as a defence coach.
The Boks’ conditioning is a further concern.
Warren Adams was the Junior Boks’ power and conditioning coach, but test rugby has set him new and previously unknown challenges.
The Boks’ weak conditioning will most likely be one of the key issues discussed at a special rugby indaba on October 19 and 20.
However, Corné Krige, who represented the Springboks in 18 tests between 1999 and 2003, is not optimistic.
“I think we have structural problems with too many amateurs as administrators in a professional sport. It [the indaba] may be a good idea, but I can’t help but be sceptical. Allister can only work with what he gets.
“I have a lot of sympathy for him, because I have many questions about his coaching team,” Krige told Afrikaans news website Netwerk24 this week.
“I support transformation, but Mzwandile is – with all due respect – out of his depth. He was appointed backline coach after two seasons as coach of the Under-19 team of the weakest union in the country [the Kings].
“He may have a lot of talent, but at test level, you need years of experience.
“Coaching the Springboks is hard enough and someone is going to have to accept responsibility for these decisions.”
In a similar fashion to Stick and Adams, the Boks’ team coach, Jerome Mampane, is another specialist in the Coetzee camp who lacks test experience.
Among other things, Mampane is responsible for correctly communicating Coetzee’s instructions to players. A lack of experience sometimes makes this task challenging.
Whether the Springbok coach will get his wish for reinforcements before the next game against the Wallabies remains uncertain.
But it does appear as if everybody in the Springbok camp is now willing to roll up their sleeves in the interest of South African rugby.
As a result of the sensitive nature of the changes and negotiations with possible reinforcements, Saru will treat the moves as top secret until the contracts have been finalised and the necessary approvals obtained.