Allister Coetzee used 70 per cent of Rassie Erasmus’ victorious Rugby World Cup ’19 troops during the most dismal ever period in Springbok rugby history and Ian Foster is now now following in his footsteps by turning the once-revered All Black rugby machine into a squad of All Blanks.
In my living memory I’ve never seen such a bewildered and flustered squad of AB players as I did during the last 20 minutes of the Test against the Argentinians.
Replacing iconic, influential players like Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Sonny Bill Williams and Kieran Read was always going to be a monumental task but the Kiwis had an existing framework with the talent and coaches to have bridged this gap with a modicum of success if clever, clear thinking and logical reasoning where applied.
The normally visionary and astute New Zealand rugby brainstrust in its latest incarnation has however failed miserably in this regard and under the substantial cover provided by the excellent AB regimes of Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, they may have started believing in the legend of their own press a bit too much. There was proof in the condescending, self-righteous attitude towards all the role players in the recent Super Rugby implosion during the COVID reshuffle.
This was while extremely capable coaches like Warren Gatland, Dave Rennie and the red-hot man of the moment, Scotty Robertson, were around at the time and champing at the bit to take New Zealand rugby to new heights.
Allister Coetzee shone while basking in the light reflected by then Bok coach Jake White during his victorious Rugby World Cup ’07 campaign and at the Stormers under Rassie Erasmus. In 2007 the Boks’ backline pre-WC was pretty sterile (Coetzee’s bailiwick) and White had to rope in everybody’s favourite little Aussie, Eddie Jones, to unlock the talents of Frans Steyn and sharpen up Fourie du Preez and Butch James to unleash Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen out wide.
This reflected glory landed him the coveted Stormers job, which he failed at miserably until Erasmus arrived for a rebuilding season before his talents was roped into the national set-up. Allister then ploughed with Erasmus’ cattle for two seasons to reach the playoffs and a final where he spectacularly dropped the ball on both occasions.
In short, he never won anything or any trophy of consequence as a head coach, a feat about to be duplicated with Ian Foster and his below-par career to date. His only saving grace initially has been the Boks’ absence and a young rebuilding Wallaby Bledisloe squad under the above mentioned Dave Rennie, who was very astutely poached by Aussie rugby.
Ian Foster coached the Chiefs for nine years and during his tenure they were the bottom New Zealand franchise dwellers, ending mostly below mid table. He did reach the semis in 2004 only to be destroyed by the George Gregan/Stephen Larkham/Stirling Mortlock triumvirate and he finally got his troops to the final in 2009 just to lose by a still-record margin of 61-17 against the Bulls’ magic of Fourie du Preez and the Bakkies Botha/Victor Matfield show.
As Hanson’s assistant between 2012 and 2019, his artificial ascent to the top tier started with the reflected glory from the glorious Steve Hansen show, much like Allister Coetzee’s rise…and eventual spectacular fall.
To be a successful rugby coach on the international circuit you needs to be a charismatic and magnetic character with a strong personality and a large slice of mongrel thrown in, something Erasmus, Hanson and Robertson have oodles of and Foster simply has none of.
The biggest single challenge for a rugby coach is to see and unlock all the potential synergies between his chosen players on the field of battle so the collective can become greater than the sum of its parts to ultimately achieve greatness. The historic WC-winning honor-roll of coaches – namely Kitsch Christie, Rod McQueen, Ian Woodward, Jake White, Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Rassie Erasmus – epitomise the above traits and abilities but sadly Ian Foster like Allister Coetzee before him falls woefully short on all counts.
I believe the current New Zealand trio of Scotty Robertson, Warren Gatland or Dave Rennie all have these traits to join this particular honor-roll, or at least have a much better shot at it. Or don’t they?
Springbok rugby celebrated Foster’s appointment. It’s going to make developing our squad of young guns so much easier than if Scotty Robertson was calling the shots in our old enemies’ camp, as Dave Rennie has already proven with his new, exciting blend of youth and experience being groomed for future greatness.
Keep it up and carry on Ian Foster, we’re not complaining at all.