Final score Italy versus South Africa, 20-18. That is correct, the Boks have sunk to a new low. Losing to an Italian rugby team that lost 68-10 to a second string New Zealand team the previous week. What makes matters even worse is that the coach Allister Coetzee selected his strongest available team to take on the Italians. This is the seventh defeat out of eleven matches which equals the most defeats by a Bok side in 2006 in a calendar year. That wasn't the end of it. The Boks crashed to a 27-13 loss to Wales in Cardiff, a team that ran them close at the World Cup quarterfinal last year. An eighth defeat for 2016.
The Boks mentor has come under fire for the decline of the Springbok brand. For most of the post-match interviews, he made references to the structures which are making it difficult for the Boks to compete in World rugby. That is a fair comment, where South Africa needs to work out a better system for the Currie Cup and are there too many South African franchises in the Super rugby tournament with a team like the Southern Kings basically just making up the numbers. The South African economy is not strong, so many rugby players in their prime is playing rugby overseas for better compensation because their earnings in South Africa will not be that high due to the weak rand. Another part of the structure which was mentioned at the coaching indaba in October was to work on the skillsets of all rugby teams in South Africa so that they can have it instilled at grassroots levels already.
Are the structures really responsible for the seven defeats?
If you look at the Bok performances from an analytical point of view, it's basic. The Boks tactical kicking is the worse it has ever been since readmission. There seems to be a lot of indecisiveness when it comes to defence, even a spectator that doesn't watch rugby often will see that they look really uncomfortable defending. The Boks are not sure how to attack and hold onto possession. So now at the end of 2016, the Boks are in dire need for change to break them out of this slump.
After the Italian defeat, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) president, Mark Alexander said, "The whole of South Africa is extremely disappointed with this year's Springbok results and deeply worrying performances. Questions will be asked and we will look at the interventions that need to be taken."
There is a strong possibility that SARU will appoint a new coach next year.
Below are a few names that could fill that Bok coaching position:
At the moment he is currently the best active locally based coach. He took charge of the Lions in 2013 and transformed them into a competitive team that was runners up in the 2016 Super rugby final against the Hurricanes away. His team on route to the final beat the Crusaders in the quarter-final and last year's winners, the Highlanders in the semi-finals. So he knows how to beat New Zealand teams.
He took over the Springboks in 2004 when they were at their lowest point after a disastrous World Cup 2003 under Rudolf Straeuli's mentorship. He rebuilt the Bok brand; he kept continuity in selection and made them force to be reckoned with. He came under fire for not selecting enough players of colour. After leading the Boks to World cup glory in 2007, for some bizarre reason he did not stay on. Apparently in the build up to the World cup quarter final against Fiji, SARU advertised the position for Springbok coach. He did not reapply for the position. After the tournament, he was not even considered for the position because he did not reapply. It's so strange that we have World cup glory in 2007 and the rugby administration didn't even consider him for the position moving forward.
He was a successful Springbok coach; he led them within a grasp of breaking the world record for the most consecutive victories only to lose in their final game against England in 1998. He was at the helm when the Boks were unlucky to lose an intense World cup semi-final to eventual winners, Australia. In 2000 he had a tough year when the Boks lost five test matches under him, although they did come against England, Australia and New Zealand. In 2000, he criticized the price of test match tickets, stating that they are expensive, which the rugby administrators did not like which led to his dismissal. He is currently an analyst for Supersport and he expressed no desire to be coach again.
The foreign option
SARU has never appointed a foreign coach, if they do go in that direction, who is out there for them? Former New Zealand and Supersport analyst John Mitchell is coaching the USA rugby team and there is Robbie Deans who is a former Wallaby coach.
The sad reality is that Allister Coetzee was not the right man for the job. He did a reasonable job with the Stormers and Western province without setting the world alight. For a two-time World champion team like the Springboks, they need the best. With all due respect to Mr. Coetzee, he does not even rank in the top 10 in the world when it comes to international coaches. Hopefully sanity will prevail and SARU will appoint the best candidate and that there is no outside influences and political interferences in how the coach operates and selects his team.