Cape Town - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee earlier found himself having to indirectly reassure his assistant coaches, who are every bit as embattled as he is, through the media.
Coetzee was responding to a newspaper report that said he had pleaded with the SA Rugby Union for coaching reinforcements.
Besides making his position look weak, the story also had the inadvertent effect of putting his staff on edge.
His parting shot was that if he had a problem with any of his assistants, he would tell them and not go behind their backs to ask his bosses for help. But on closer inspection, it may well be Coetzee who needs to watch his back.
At 10:48 on Thursday morning, (two hours before the official announcement) the day Coetzee was announcing his squad for Saturday's test against the Wallabies, the exact same team list was leaked on Twitter with the question: What do you think?
The responses were the odd doubts about the veracity of the list; the usual complaint about bringing back Morné Steyn when rebuilding for the World Cup and the odd punter noting that a lot of the Bok forwards, including Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff and Willem Alberts, wear double XL jerseys and shorts (the list came with player sizes, which makes it reasonably official).
In short, the list didn’t quite trend because Rudy Paige, Steyn and Pat Lambie were mostly expected changes from the test against the All Blacks.
Those wondering why a crusty old rugby hack has suddenly become the class mpimpi (informant), I’m probably a little miffed that the list didn’t find its way into my inbox.
The sneak preview of the team list raises a couple of questions: who leaked it and what was the intention of disclosing it?
In the old days when the Bok team got into a rough patch performance-wise, there was a palpable battening down of the hatches from the ranks.
During times like that, the physiotherapists wouldn’t even be seen with the journalists at training for fear of being accused of being the ones who may have given juicy info about the team’s internal strife.
Now someone – be it from inside the team, the main office or their battery of suppliers – clearly has broken ranks, either to embarrass the side or the coach.
I say the aim was to embarrass Coetzee or his team because, traditionally, there is an understanding between the coaching team and the media that they can speculate on the imminent changes or the starting line-up based on what they see at training.
The Boks had closed sessions before the test because they didn’t want the hysteria that would have accompanied the media’s informed speculation. Yet someone from within their ranks went ahead and did it anyway.
Now Coetzee, who already has a lot on his mind thanks to the shortest honeymoon period ever afforded a Bok coach, has the fact that he can’t trust one or some of the people who work for him to park in the back of his crowded subconscious.
As betrayal or acts of espionage go, the leak is not quite planting bugs in the All Black team room like the Wallabies were accused of doing earlier this season.
But who knows where this is all headed.