Coetzee feeling undermined as Boks coach

International
AFP
by AFP

Under-performing South Africa coach Allister Coetzee says in a leaked letter that officials are undermining him and creating a public impression that he is incompetent.  

After only 11 victories in 25 Tests during two years guiding the Springboks, there has been media speculation that the 54-year-old faced the sack.  

But the former inter-provincial scrum-half says his efforts to build a team capable of winning the  2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are being severely hampered by some officials.

Coetzee believes that if he does not quit, he risks being reduced to a "ceremonial coach" reporting to recently appointed national director of rugby Johan "Rassie" Erasmus.

Allister Coetzee says the Wallabies will be a massive challenge. Photo: Getty ImagesIn the letter from Coetzee to SA Rugby, leaked to the media, the coach alleges that officials "embarked on a deliberate attempt to undermine me from the word go.

"(This) creates a public impression of incompetence on my part while wilfully obstructing my efforts to be successful.

"I will fight to protect my hard-earned reputation, which is in the process of being deliberately soiled publicly by elements within SA Rugby."

When Coetzee belatedly succeeded Heyneke Meyer in 2016, he did not have time for pre-season camps and had no say in the selection of support staff.

South Africa lost a calendar-year record eight Tests, including at home to Ireland, away to Argentina and to Italy for the first time.

The Springboks were also humiliated 57-15 by greatest rivals the New Zealand All Blacks in Durban, a record home loss.

Last year, Coetzee got the assistant coaches he wanted after a reshuffle and the team underwent extensive pre-season training, but there was only a slight improvement in performances. 

The Springboks a bracing for a strong Wallabies outfit. Photo: Getty ImagesSouth Africa did win seven Tests, but six came against poorly performing France and Argentina, and the other against traditional European minnows Italy.

Among four 2017 losses were a 57-0 drubbing in New Zealand, a 38-3 thrashing in Ireland, and a 24-22 loss to a virtual Wales 'B' team.

A damning statistic is that Coetzee has not won a Test against a team ranked higher in the world.

Before becoming national coach, Coetzee developed the Cape Town-based Western Stormers into the consistently most successful of the South African sides in Super Rugby.

He then worked with a Japanese club before becoming only the second black coach of the Springboks after Peter de Villiers.

"I was the most successful (South African) Super Rugby coach at the time of my (Springboks) appointment and was requested to return from Japan because my country needed me," the letter read in part.

Despite only a 44 percent win rate in charge of a country that lifted the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and 2007 and were third in England three years ago, Coetzee insists he is on the right track.

"I am contracted to 2019 ... there has been immense progress," he stressed after the last tour of Europe.

Springboks skipper Eben Etzebeth backs his coach: "They (critics of Coetzee) do not always know what they are talking about. I would keep Allister as coach."