Cape Town - Former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen believes the problems in South African rugby are far greater than just the coaching of national mentor Allister Coetzee.
Claassen made headlines in November last year when he, along with former Bok scrumhalf Divan Serfontein, circulated a hard-hitting letter under a heading “Heyneke Must Fall” among dozens of former Springboks.
Claassen and Serfontein called for concerted action to ensure that Heyneke Meyer’s four-year contract was not renewed by SA Rugby.
Claassen then mentioned Coetzee as a suitable candidate to succeed Meyer.
“If you look at a guy like Allister Coetzee - he was the deputy coach for the Springboks for quite a long time. He was quite successful with Western Province and the Stormers. He’s got the right CV. He also played top class rugby, he played provincial rugby and for the SARU national team in those days,” Claassen said at the time.
Claassen got his wish when Coetzee was appointed national coach earlier this year, but things have gone pear-shaped, with the Boks losing five out of nine games, including two heavy defeats (41-13 and 57-15) against old rivals, the All Blacks.
In an interview with Netwerk24 on Monday, Claassen said the letter was never sent with a personal vendetta against Meyer in mind.
“It was a plea, and not because we wanted to engage in a personal battle against Heyneke. Judging from Saturday’s scandalous performance against the All Blacks, it’s clear that our fears were not far-fetched,” said Claassen.
“Most of the guys who wanted to take us on, never read the report. It was about much more than just our discontent with how Meyer coached the team. Yes, his game plan left much to be desired and he picked a lot of injured players and old guys, but it (the letter) was mainly about the underlying problems in our rugby.”
Last Saturday’s Springbok performance in Durban, where the Boks lost by a record margin (42 points) to the All Blacks, was a “sad” day for South African rugby, Claassen believes.
“At one stage New Zealand played cat and mouse with us when they only had 14 players on the field. People want to know why we’re also not criticising Allister. (But) he’s not even six month into the job.
“Myself and several former players are obviously still worried about our rugby. However, the problem is more wide-ranging than Allister Coetzee’s coaching.”
Claassen feels SA Rugby should ask itself why there’s a shortage of quality coaches in the country.
“I’m in no way referring to race, but the top brass who appointed Mzwandile Stick as assistant coach, must explain why someone with so little experience got the job.
“John Mitchell laid the groundwork for the success the Lions have achieved in the last while and his virtue and experience could be much better utilised. John Plumtree was shown the door at the Sharks and this year helped the Hurricanes win the Super Rugby title," Claassen continued.