|Our rugby scribe takes a look at the appointment of Allister Coeztee to the Springbok hot seat|
Since the announcement of Allister Coetzee as the Springbok coach, our rugby writer has been deep in thought, contemplating what the near future holds for the national team.
Fueled by a diet of beer and last night’s leftover pizza, our rugby fanatic has spent the last month and a half penning this thought-provoking piece.
When queried on his hopes for his recently penned literary masterpiece and the Springbok’s upcoming season, he responded with this “I don’t want to talk about words or anything relating to the English language for the next few days, and I bloody hope we win something this year, I’m sick of losing to people who consider sheep to be majestic beasts”.
As you can tell, the long hours spent recapping the Springbok's dissapointing past few seasons have turned him into a rather grumpy sod. Thankfully his piece is a lot less gloomy than he currently is.
Bok to the Future
When Jake White took over from Rudolph Straulie in 2003 South African rugby was in absolute tatters. The glory days of the mid 90’s seemed a millennium away and public support was on the wane. Fast forward four years and the Springboks were once again champions of the world and every man, woman, and child, as well as a few small dogs, were sporting Bok jumpers as they ran their daily errands.
Newly appointed head coach Allister Coetzee faces a similar situation to the one White found himself in back in 2003. Much like White, Coetzee will have to change the opinions of a disgruntled public who were left underwhelmed by the Boks displays under former headcoach Heynecke Meyer.
Another parallel between the circumstances White had to contend with during the embryonic phase of his tenure and what his former assistant faces to today, is which elder statesmen should be thrown a lifeline and which should be put out to pasture.
Speaking at his unveiling, Coetzee was quick to confirm that overseas-based South Africans will be considered for selection this year.
It’s a rather bold move by SARU to continue with this philosophy especially when you consider the most successful rugby nation in the world – who have a much smaller rugby playing population, by the way – have forgone this option and will only field domestically based players.
While I totally understand that there are economic factors at play here – one New Zealand Dollar currently equates to 10.17 Rand at the time of writing – I still think that Coetzee should only consider locally based talent. The likes of Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Bryan Habana, and the du Plessis brothers should be left to make their millions in Europe.
While I think Louw and Vermeulen still have a lot to offer South African rugby, it would be hugely unfair on the likes of Siya Kolisi, Warren Whitley, the du Preez twins and Jaco Kriel to give these veterans another stint in a Bok jumper.
Coetzee may think differently, however, and at the end of the day, it’s his job on the line, not mine. I do hope he is bold enough to cut the likes of Bryan Habana, the aforementioned du Plessis’, and Zane Kircher from his selection plans, however.
Speaking of bold moves, Coetzee made one of the boldest moves in the history of Springbok rugby by announcing Mzwandile Stick as his backline coach. The former Blitzbok and Sharks flyer has been cutting his teeth as a coach in the lower divisions of South African rugby since he hung up his playing boots in 2013.
Mzwandile's fledgling coaching career reads as so:
2013- Eastern Province U21 Assistant Coach
2014-15 Eastern Province Vodacom Cup Head Coach & Eastern Province U19 Head Coach
2016- Southern Kings Assistant Coach
While it’s not the most impressive resume on paper, further digging seems to indicate that former Blitzbokke skipper is a capable coach who gets his side’s playing attacking rugby – something desperately needed by the national team.
He led the Eastern Province under 19 side to Absa Provincial U19 Championship glory last year. His young guns only lost a solitary game on their run to the final and also racked up a staggering 339 points from their 12 round robin fixtures.
Stick is also said to also be a bit of a throwback to those old-school coaches we all encountered as young school boys. He doesn’t stand for nonsense which is something I think these molly-coddled Springbok backs will need to understand before they start working with the 31-year-old.
From Ten to Fifteen
South Africa’s Achilles heel has more to do with self-harm than any external factors. The Bok’s have struggled to evolve with the times. Despite being reminded of how much rugby has changed every time our domestic franchises turn out in Super Rugby, our former coaches always opted to go the conservative route.
Ironically enough, Heynecke Meyer’s final year in charge started with the Springbok’s playing to a much more modern tune. Gone were the days of a simple ten piece band strumming the same chords while the drummer beat the living daylights out of his drum set, instead, a new electric brand of rugby with hard hitting bass lines provided by a solid tight five, an upbeat tempo courtesy of conductor Handre Pollard, and bebop-styled innovation from Pollard’s outside backs made for some enthralling spectacles. The band was to revert back to their old staples all too soon, however, which ultimately cost them a showpiece gig at rugby’s Carnegie hall, Twickenham, last November.
Coetzee hopefully isn’t a fan of the classics. While he did demonstrate willingness to innovate during his time at the helm of Western Province, he was also guilty of reverting back to ten man rugby when the going got tough or when his side reached the knock-out stage of any tournament – the Stormer’s defeat to the Brumbies in last year’s Super Rugby playoff game is a prime example of this.
He’s an astute man as well as his harshest critic and I think he will have learnt from those past mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, there will come a time during his tenure when he’s forced to instruct his side to keep it tight and look to play the territory game through the flyhalves boot, but as long as this is the exception rather than the rule, I’ll be a happy chap.
Playing Personal – The Selection Dilemma from Hell
While the whole overseas-based player debate is one that will rage on in pubs and rugby clubs as long as the oval-balled shaped game is played, it doesn’t really change the fact that Coetzee is going to have to make some tough decisions on who he incorporates in his squad.
Based on Super Rugby form, this is what I'd say our best 23 currently looks like (All players are locally based and this list excludes players who have picked up long-term eg: Marcel Coetzee)
15. Willie Le Roux/Clayton Bloometjies, 14. Ruan Combrink, 13. Lionel Mapoe/Francois Venter 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg/Shane Gates 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Elton Jantjies 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whitley/Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. JD Schickerling/Pieter-Steph du Toit 4. Andries Ferreira/Lood de Jaeger 3. Vincent Koch 2. Malcolm Marx/Edgar Marutulle 1. Dylan Smith/Beast Mtawaria
With the likes of Damian de Allende and Pat Lambie having returned form injury, and Cobus Reynecke and Jesse Kriel sure to find form before the incoming tour against Ireland, the actual squad that will take on the men from the 'emerald isle' is likely to be a lot different to the one I’ve just penned down.
My point was not to give an exact match day squad for the first Test against Ireland but to rather prove that there is a wealth of locally based talent for Coetzee to choose from, and how hard his task is going to be when it comes to selecting a match day 23.
The biggest dilemma Coetzee is likely to face is who to field at ten. I think his choice here could go a long way to indicating what type of brand of rugby he wants to play.
If he opts for Lambie, he knows he’s getting a solid ten who has an assured boot. The downfall with the Sharks' skipper is that he has tended to play a lot deeper than he did when he burst on the scene. This could be down to Heynecke Meyer having asked him to play further behind the advantage line as the former Bok mentor liked his tens to sit in the pocket so as to control the game through astute tatical kicking. This theory also makes sense when you consider that the Sharks had one of the most powerful forward packs in both Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. And that they got the best out of their tight five advantage by looking to dominate the terriotory stakes.
Onto Jantjies now. The Lions man is a total contrast to his rival for the ten jersey. The twice-capped Bok likes to take the ball to the gain line and put his runners into space with delicate offloads. Jantjies downfall however, is his inconsistency. While he’s capable of getting his side on the front foot by taking the ball right up to the opposing defensive line, he’s just as capable of throwing a loose pass that puts an opposition player into space rather than his own.
The Right Call All in All
Coetzee has a mammoth task on his hands but I think he’s the right man to take South African rugby to the next level. He should have been handed the reigns after Jake White completed his tenure in 2007. But at least he’s got his shot now.
It’s not going to be easy for him considering the general mood among South African rugby fans but if he gets this Bok side playing some attractive rugby during the incoming tour, then I think he may be able to get the public back on board.
Springbok fixtures 2016
11 June | South Africa v Ireland | DHL Newlands |17:00
18 June | South Africa v Ireland | Emirates Airline Park | 17:00
25 June | South Africa v Ireland | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 17:00
20 August | South Africa v Argentina | Mbombela Stadium | 17:00
27 August | South Africa v Argentina | TBA | TBA
10 September | Australia v South Africa | Suncorp Stadium | TBA
17 August | New Zealand v South Africa | AMI Stadium | TBA
1 October | South Africa v Australia | Loftus Versfeld | 17:00
8 October | South Africa v New Zealand | Kings Park | 17:00
Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!