The South African Rugby Union (SARU) are set to name a new coach over the coming days.
The SARU’s General Council meets today in Cape Town and high on the agenda will be appointing a new coach. A preferred candidate has been identified and South Africa Rugby’s power brokers will now seek to ratify this in the coming days. An announcement could come as early as today or as late as Monday week.
Without a coach since Heyneke Meyer stepped down after leading the ‘Bokke’ to a third place World Cup finish, former South African Assistant Coach Allister Coetzee as emerged as a frontrunner, according to Sport24. The 52-year-old ex-Stormers head coach is currently coaching the Kolbeco Steelers in Japan.
While former Springbok flanker Rassie Erasmus is also in the running, with SARU president Oregon Hoskings also not ruling out the possibility of a foreign coach, with Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree a possible candidate.
Coetzee, assistant Springboks coach from 2004 to 2007 (including their 2007 World Cup triumph), spent five seasons at the Stormers, during which time they reached one Super Rugby final (2010), finished top of the overall log (2012) and won three South African Conference titles.
While at Currie Cup level he won two titles in 2012 and 2014, and two runners-up medals in 2012 and 2014. He is also credited with nurturing talent such as Springboks Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Duane Vermulen, Damian De Allende, and Juan de Jongh.
Despite his decent credentials, one of the main criticisms levelled at the 52-year-old is his style of play. Under his tutelage the Stormers adopted a defence-based game plan which saw them concede very few tries, but on the flip side they scored few tries themselves. Meyer came under intense criticism for his defensive style of play during the World Cup, so would Coetzee look to change tack if he were appointed?
Currently SARU’s general manager of high performance, Erasmus became the first coach of the Central Cheetahs when the Bloemfontein-based franchise were admitted into the Super 14 in 2006. Nothing was expected of the franchise but they did better than many thought they would: finishing in 10th place and beating some well established teams during the season. The following season saw them finish in 11th place.
While in the Currie Cup, he led the Cheetahs to two consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007 before moving on to the Stormers in late 2007. In his first season in charge he led them to a 5th place finish, just missing out on a semi-final berth, before enduring a disappointing 10th place finish the following year.
From 2010 to 2012 he, ironically, worked in tandem with Coetzee there, he as director of coaching and Coetzee as head coach where the pair did well. He also worked as a technical adviser to the national team at the 2011 World Cup before quitting the Stormers in 2012.
His critics point to his reticence in dealing with the media, questions about his temperament and his direct style of dealing with players, in questioning his possible appointment as Boks coach.
Whoever takes over, they’ll be in for a bumpy ride – in-fighting between the various unions, transformation targets to meet (SARU want half of the squad to be made up of non-white players by 2019) and intense media and public scrutiny make the job a monumental challenge.
One things’s for sure, it’s going to interesting.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena
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