Cape Town - Former national coach Nick Mallett has expressed his concern after a disastrous year for Springbok rugby.
Mallett was speaking in the SuperSport studio after the Springboks’ 27-13 loss to Wales at the weekend.
It was South Africa’s eighth defeat in 12 Tests under Allister Coetzee’s tutelage in 2016.
The coach has overseen a first loss to Italy, a first at home to Ireland and a first away to Argentina, while the Springboks were also humiliated by a record 57-15 margin at home by arch rivals, the All Blacks.
“It’s been a truly dreadful season,” Mallett said on Saturday night. “We did say after last week’s loss to Italy that we had to wait until the end of the tour to have good look at how the Springboks have performed this season. Four wins out of 12, show they’ve performed badly. We haven’t seen much progress.
“This is the first young team we’ve picked and they did make a lot of mistakes, but for 11 games we picked old, experienced players who made the same mistakes, we saw no real improvement from game to game. We didn’t really see a game strategy that made sense this year. One moment we’re talking about playing a territorial game, the next it was ‘be brave’ and play what is in front of you. We had an indaba and two coaches were added to the coaching group. South African rugby is just in a dreadful state at the moment.
“A lot of thought has to go into our structures, into the way we run our competitions and into the way we appoint our coaches. And one has to ask is there a performance clause in Allister Coetzee’s contract. There are other coaches who have been fired for better results than he has had.”
When asked about Coetzee’s tenure, Mallett said he had sympathy for Coetzee.
“I feel dreadfully sorry for Allister, because he is a lovely guy. I know him personally and he is a decent guy. But you are picked to win Test game for South Africa, not to win a popularity contest.
“But he has a four-year contract, so why should he resign? If there is no performance clause in his contract, why on earth would he walk away? We have to ask why wasn’t he appointed just for two years and why was there no performance clause for this year? Every other professional coach gets that (clause). And was it fair to him that SA Rugby said he has to take Johann van Graan, who he has never met, as his forwards coach and Mzwandile Stick as his backs coach because he is good for the future of our rugby? I don’t think that’s fair. If you ask a coach to do this job, he should be allowed to pick his own support staff and then he can be judged for the results of the team. You can’t do that when you’re the one who provided him with support staff that aren’t helping.”
However being a nice guy doesn’t always crack it at Test level, Mallett insisted.
“There are people who lead and lead inspirationally, and those who don’t. I don’t know if Allister capable. And I’ll use England as an example. Stuart Lancaster is a very decent person, who put structures in place and selected good players, but he couldn’t inspire his England team to do extraordinary things. And that is what Eddie Jones can do. He came in, took the same players, made a difficult guy captain, changed a little bit of their culture to make them more edgy and give them more self-belief and suddenly they are on a 13-match winning streak.
“If everyone is attempting to be a nice guy and like each other, even on the practice field when someone makes a bad pass and everyone runs over to him and says 'Don’t worry, it’ll come right on Saturday', it won’t come right. We need players in the Bok side to run to that player and say 'Get it right the first time'. And we need coaches who can go at players every time. There must be an edge to every training session and an edge to the team.”