Dan Retief

Nice guys come second

Posted in Home by Dan Retief on 27 Nov 2016
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Pared down to this it looks, and is, terrible.

Defeat 20-26 Ireland at Newlands

Victory 32-26 Ireland at Ellis Park

Victory 19-13 Ireland at Nelson Mandela Stadium

Victory 30-23 Argentina at Mbombela Stadium

Defeat 24-26 Argentina at Estadio Padre Ernesto

Defeat 17-23 Australia at Suncorp Stadium

Defeat 13-41 New Zealand at AMI Stadium

Victory 10-18 Australia at Loftus Versfeld

Defeat 15-57 New Zealand at King’s Park Stadium

Draw 31-31 Barbarians at Wembley Stadium

Defeat 21-31 England at Twickenham

Defeat 18-20 Italy at Stadio Artemio Franchi

Defeat 13-27 Wales at Millennium Stadium

Played 11 Won 4 Drawn 1 Lost 8

All the points have been made about how bad a record that is.

As much as I like the man, as much as I supported his appointment, I have to concede that Allister Coetzee has been a massive disappointment as Springbok coach.

Much has been said about the straitjacket he was forced into in terms of his back-up staff and perhaps not enough is acknowledged in terms of the many critical injuries that upset his campaign but looking back on an annus horribilis Allister has much to answer for.

It has a strange year for me. One in which I did not have to report on one of the matches.

I watched two tests live (Newlands and Ellis Park), one in a pub at Sabi River Bungalows (the massacre by the All Blacks) and the others in stressed and frustrated solitude in front of the TV.

As I tweeted (@Retief_Dan) shortly after the curtain came down on 2016’s tragedy it beggars belief just how bad the Springboks were, or have become, under Allister’s custodianship.

I added that all the players had played better rugby at school; which points to the fact that the players themselves need to take a lot of responsibility for the complete incompetence they displayed on this appalling tour north.

They’re professionals for goodness sake! They play rugby for a living! Why were they physically not up to it? Why were their skills (basic catching and passing) so lacking? Why did they have so little resolve? Why did they not stand up, backs-to-the-wall, and fight like Springbok teams of years gone by?

It was just not good enough and whatever the excuses the players, never mind the fans, let themselves down. They’ll have to live with that.

But back to “Toetie” – Coetzee’s nickname that I first learnt in 1992 when he partnered Naas Botha in a ceremonial match in Kimberley to mark the unification of South Africa’s warring rugby bodies.

He made just so many mistakes:

• Why did he not, right from the outset, set about building a new team in the interests of preparing for Japan 2019? If he had we would have understood.

• Why did he go back to overseas-based players who were clearly not in prime physical condition and not as committed as they should have been?

• Why did he pick a captain who was intent on retiring? Surely Allister should have known of Adriaan Strauss’ intentions (unless the skipper was not entirely candid)? But why, when it was announced, did he even take Strauss on the end-of-year tour?

• Why did he stick so long with players who were so clearly off-form?

• Why did he not reward players who had shown exceptional form in Super Rugby? The one that stands out for me is Jaco Kriel?

• Why did he not involve the like of Johan Ackermann and Franco Smith – coaches of the teams player at least passable rugby?

• Why did he return to Morne Steyn? He got a win over Australia but then came the slaughter at the hands of the All Blacks. If Steyn was the answer should he not have continued to be the answer?

• Why did he pick arguably the tallest lineout in Springbok history (against England) and then not contest the opposition throw?

• As a scrumhalf himself why was he unable to fix the problems in the make-ups of Rudy Paige and Faf de Klerk?

• Why was there so little evidence of a game plan? What, I often asked myself, are the Boks trying to do?

There was more, but I’m already way over the limit I have been told with which online readers can cope!

One of the things that stood out for me was the absolute lack of urgency in the side. Early on in the game against Ireland at Ellis Park I remarked to the person sitting next to me that the Boks were already walking to lineouts and this malady was defined in the Italy test when in the 4th minute, after having kicked a penalty to touch, they ambled to lineout.

Up the pace! I thought, but of course that’s exactly where the problem lies. These Boks are not fit enough; they can’t keep up a high tempo; they can’t maintain possession beyond the fourth phase, if they even get to the fourth phase.

As I said, Allister has a lot to answer for. As Nick Mallett has said, Bok coaches have been sacked for much less – particularly those who have the temerity to comment on the price of test tickets!