Johannesburg - It was only a matter of time before Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and SA Rugby went their separate ways.
Relations between the two parties reached an all-time low last week after Coetzee wrote a scathing letter accusing SA Rugby of setting him up for failure.
The letter escalated an impasse on the composition of the panel tasked with compiling his performance review for last year.
A source said time was of the essence for Coetzee and his employers, which led to a speedy agreement after SA Rugby got hold of the former Bok coach’s lawyers and asked him to step down.
According to the source - who said Coetzee was on stronger legal footing than many thought due to an alleged lack of support from his employers - SA Rugby was eager for the matter not to go to the Labour Court.
The source said going to the Labour Court might have caused the matter to drag on longer than SA Rugby would have liked, and claimed Coetzee’s legal team threatened to interdict the organisation from appointing a new coach for as long as the case was in court.
The other issue for SA Rugby, said the source, would have been director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who wouldn’t have been enamoured of his working conditions after being lured back to wield the kind of influence that basically included running the Bok team.
The fact that Erasmus was also criticised in the letter, which described him as a less qualified coach and his appointment as a stumbling block to transformation, would have made working with Coetzee impossible.
It was in Coetzee’s best interests to leave due to the fractured working relationship and breakdown in trust caused by his letter.
With an offer from a Japanese club believed to be Canon Eagles on the table, Coetzee had to make up his mind quickly as the opportunity wouldn’t wait for however long his shaky tenure as Bok coach would take to conclude.
There are conflicting reports regarding the settlement, with a City Press source claiming Coetzee would receive the rest of the money due to him had he kept his job until December 2019, when his contract was due to end, while an SA Rugby official said it was closer to four months of pay.
A statement released by SA Rugby on Friday read: “The rugby department of SA Rugby will manage the responsibilities of the Springbok coach until the national team’s coaching and management group for 2018 is confirmed later this month.”
Erasmus, who has long been rumoured to have been brought back from Ireland to put structures in place for SA Rugby and replace Coetzee, is the leading contender to get the job until at least next year’s World Cup.
Looking at the time frame SA Rugby has given itself to finalise the new coaching team, appointing Erasmus - who is not a fan of the scrutiny that goes with being the head coach of a team, let alone one as complicated as the Boks - would make sense.
This week’s parting of ways between SA Rugby and Coetzee ended what was a frustratingly underwhelming tenure that will be remembered for record defeats by New Zealand (57-0 in Albany last year) and Ireland (38-3 in November).
Having come into the job as Jake White’s assistant coach when South Africa won the 2007 World Cup in France, a lot was expected of the former Stormers coach, who guided his team to the 2010 Super Rugby final.
Amid claims of a lack of assistance from his bosses, a massive player exodus to clubs abroad and his own shortcomings as a coach, Coetzee was just never able to rebuild a Bok team high on youth and low on experience and expertise.