Whenever a South African rugby coach is appointed there are some common clichés that are thrown about.
The most relevant one to this debate is “we will stick to what we are good at.”
But before I start offering my two cents on Allister Coetzee I would like to look at the four predecessors who coached South at the World Cups 1999, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Nick Mallett coached South Africa for 38 Test matches, ending his tenure on a 71 per cent win ratio.
His win record against New Zealand 57 per cent, the only South African with a superior record against New Zealand. His win ratio against Australia was 38 per cent, which truth be told is rather poor. His win ratio against all tier one nations was 66 per cent.
Jake White coached South Africa for 54 Test matches, ending his tenure with 66 per cent win ratio.
His win record against New Zealand 33 per cent, rather poor I would suggest, however his win ratio against Australia was 55 per cent and against all tier one nations was 60 per cent.
Pieter de Villiers coached South Africa for 48 Tests ending his tenure with a win ration of 62 per cent.
His win ratio against New Zealand was 45 per cent and against Australia 33 per cent, while his record against all tier one nations were a rather dismal 54 per cent.
Heyneke Meyer coached South Africa for 48 Tests for a win record of 66 per cent.
His win record against New Zealand was an embarrassing 12.5 per cent, against Australia things looked a little brighter with a win ratio of 57 per cent and against all tier one nations his overall record was 67 per cent.
Combined statistics for these four coaches read 13 wins out of 35 attempts versus New Zealand, and 17 wins out of 38 against Australia.
This clearly indicates that South Africa has been the underperforming team in the SANZAR Alliance.
Their record against the other tier one nations is satisfactory with a ratio of 79 per cent.
But the mere fact that they have an inferior record against Australia and New Zealand for nigh on the last 18 years would suggest that the theory of “we will stick to what we are good at” may apply to the Northern Hemisphere opponents, it does however not apply to the SANZAR alliance.
Which leads me to my oh so well-known tirade of “can SARU please wake up and smell the roses?”
It is all fine to stick to a plan that works against a specific opponent. However when the results over the past 18 years have proven to make a mockery of your philosophy surely there must be at least one person to realise things need to change.
At the press conference where it was announced that Coetzee is the new Springbok coach, minister Fikile Mbalula accused South Africans fans of being disloyal, suggesting we are fickle and will only support the Springboks when they win.
I think the mere fact that I have lasted this long since the law changes in 2009 and have only now come to the end of my tether, proves how committed one such Springbok supporter had been.
During the press conference Coetzee on several occasions reiterated that he will stick to our strengths. He did recognise that attacking speed and skills need to be addressed and decision making had to improve.
The trouble is, I heard the same from Heyneke Meyer, he may have worded it slightly different – his key word was execution – but the general sentiment was the same.
My question to Coetzee as it was to Meyer is this “how are you going to change the culture of South African rugby if you are also committed to selecting overseas players who have the same conservative mentality as yourself, and your predecessors?”
“How are we going to evolve South African rugby if you continue to advocate we will stick to what we are good at if the proof is there is hasn’t worked for 18 years against Australia and New Zealand?”
“Who will develop those skills of our players to make better decisions, play positive rugby and cultivate a mindset of evolution if you yourself have not evolved Stormers rugby during your tenure?”
I have no doubt about your sincerity, I have no doubt about your commitment, I have no doubt you believe you will only do what is best in your mind for SA rugby.
But then, Meyer, De Villiers, White and Mallett were all sincere, committed and believed they did what was best for SA rugby as well.
I therefore wish you best of luck with your endeavours, I will support you and your management team.
But there is a condition, South African rugby culture needs to change, it needs to embrace positive attacking rugby. I do not want to see us defend leads, I do not want to see a defensive game plan.
I do not want overseas players donning a jersey whose legacy has been tarnished in the last two decades.
One last point of note. I am not concerned about transformation, one just has to take a look at our sevens team to realise it is a non issue.