Johannesburg - gIn yet another twist in the will he, won’t he go saga around Allister Coetzee, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has revealed that the eagerly awaited Springbok coach’s performance review that was supposed to take place this week did not happen.
According to media reports, Wednesday had loomed large as Coetzee’s day of reckoning; a day in which his performance for the year would be reviewed by his bosses and a decision made on whether to retain him following two seasons of winning just 44% of his 25 games in charge.
But as SA Rugby sent out a statement on Friday saying that no decision would be made on Coetzee’s future until the new year, Alexander was adamant that the much anticipated review had actually not taken place.
“Who told you there was a review?” was Alexander’s retort when asked what the process going forward would be this week. “We couldn’t have a review because the man’s just come back from the [end-of-year] tour. He still has to do his homework and then make his report.
“There was no review, that’s only at the beginning of next year.”
Alexander said the one meeting that had taken place was that of the steering committee, a group “put in place to support Allister”. The gathering was made up of SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux, deputy president Francois Davids, vice-president James Stoffberg and recently returned director of rugby Johan “Rassie” Erasmus.
The big showdown is now set for January 16, the day after the SA Rugby offices reopen.
Asked to confirm other speculations around Coetzee, such as the presence of a 65% win ratio performance clause, Alexander was loath to comment: “There is a performance agreement, but I can’t talk about that because that’s an HR thing as it’s an employee/employer issue.
“Also, talking about those things now would prejudice what happens next year. We need to have a fair process take place.”
Alexander did voice his disappointment in the Springbok performances over the past two years, saying: “We’ve had two years of breaking a couple of unwanted records, which doesn’t augur well for South African rugby.”
The dubious milestones were reached when the Boks won just four of their 12 tests last year, their worst calendar results in history; when they lost to Italy for the first time; and when they lost by record margins to supposed traditional rivals New Zealand at home (57-15) and away (57-0), and to Ireland (38-3) on their recent tour of Europe.
After an improved 2017 in which the Boks won seven of their 13 games with two draws and four defeats, Coetzee has stood firm against the clamour for him to resign, insisting that his team – which began the year with comprehensive wins against France and Argentina before the wheels came off – was on the right track.
By the sounds of it, SA Rugby is keen to part ways, but is wary of paying Coetzee out for the remainder of his contract, which runs out after the 2019 World Cup. As another SA Rugby official – who spoke on condition of anonymity – put it, Coetzee couldn’t fail to meet his performance requirements and expect a payout.
In other SA Rugby news, Alexander said the organisation was in talks with sponsors Steinhoff about what to do in the wake of the embarrassing situation their partners found themselves in over the past fortnight.
Steinhoff, which is the jersey sponsor for the national sevens team and funds the Varsity Cup competition, is under investigation for what appears to be large-scale accounting irregularities, which have lost it billions after the misdeeds were uncovered last week.
“Steinhoff has been very good to South African rugby,” said Alexander. “We’re busy talking and whatever they want to do going forward, we’ll respect it. They have been very good to us and we’re grateful to them. It’s unfortunate what’s happened with their organisation.”
Alexander said the Blitzboks, who are the defending champions in the World Rugby Sevens Series and are probably SA Rugby’s premier brand at the moment, already have potential suitors knocking on the door to replace Steinhoff.