Madness of King Allister must stop

Allister Coetzee is a decent man who protects his players wherever possible. In the two weeks that have passed since New Zealand beat South Africa 57-0, the Springbok coach has been in confessional mode. The problem with explaining yourself, however, is that once you start it’s hard to know when to stop. Cans of worms, once opened, cannot be closed.

So it is one thing to say to the press about Francois Hougaard: “Not playing regularly at nine has not helped him with his technical ability at scrumhalf at Test match level.” It is quite another to explain why, in that case, Hougaard was recalled in the first place. This is not new information; the Bulls moved him to the wing seven years ago because his passing game, in particular, was not accurate enough at provincial level, never mind Test level.

It is no secret that South Africa is not blessed with great depth at scrumhalf right now. Coetzee’s predecessor, Heyneke Meyer, persuaded Fourie du Preez to come out of retirement for the 2015 World Cup precisely for that reason. If a former national scrumhalf now campaigning in Europe needed to be brought into the squad now, that player should have been Ruan Pienaar.

Now that Hougaard has been sent back to Worcester, Coetzee has replaced him with Louis Schreuder, a player the coach learned to trust during his long tenure at the Stormers. It is, sadly, the equivalent of compounding a felony. Schreuder is one of those players who has been around long enough for everyone to conclude he is not Test material.

It may be argued by Schreuder’s defenders that exactly the same could be said for Ross Cronjé and that, given the same opportunities, he will thrive. But Cronjé comes with one thing that Schreuder does not: the key to the psychological wellbeing of Elton Jantjies.

Another man who contributes in that regard is Ruan Combrinck, and it is an enduring mystery quite why he has not featured in the Springbok squad this season after, arguably, being their best player in 2016. Coetzee’s response was to tell the media that Combrinck had not had enough game time since recovering from injury.

“At this point in time after Super Rugby, Ruan hasn’t played a lot of rugby and he hasn’t started much [in Japan]. It makes it difficult, and I burned my fingers last year when we had players coming in from France, and we spoke a lot about their conditioning and fitness levels,” he said.

And yet Handré Pollard is part of the squad, having played almost no rugby at all for the past two years. Coetzee’s response was: “The difference is that I’ve had Handré here with the coaches, training with us and putting in the extra sessions. He’s up to speed with our game plan and where we want to go as a team.”

What’s missing, of course, is game time. Pollard is one of several squad members who have been training with the national side instead of playing for their provinces. After the debacle in New Zealand, Coetzee saw fit to release a number of them to play in last weekend’s Currie Cup matches — but Bulls coach John Mitchell said thanks, but no thanks.

Ironically, Mitchell was forced to bring Pollard on to the bench against the Sharks after his young fullback, Manie Libbok, was rushed to hospital to have his appendix removed. In a match the Bulls had to win to stay in the competition, Pollard came on with half an hour to go.

Conditions could not have been worse, with Durban being battered by torrential rain and the Bulls being forced to play catch-up. Unsurprisingly, Pollard looked short of a gallop. The moral of this story is that the instinctive things players learn from regular competition cannot be honed on the training field.

If anyone should have fallen on their sword after the Albany defeat, it was Raymond Rhule. He earned the unwanted nickname of “The Matador” as he ushered All Black players through in the course of missing nine tackles. Yet Coetzee stood up for his man, saying: “I’m not a coach who will look at one poor performance and chuck someone away.”

On Tuesday, however, he did exactly that, sending Rhule back to the Cheetahs for Pro14 duty. At the same time, he released two Sharks players — S’bu Nkosi and Dan du Preez — who should be part of his long-term strategy. Nkosi spent all of two days with the squad, apparently for observation.

All of the above are examples of muddled thinking — or, as some have dubbed it, the madness of the Springbok coach. Eventually, among those in positions open to public scrutiny, the endless need to prove yourself right and everyone else wrong manifests. It was inevitable that Coetzee would lose his way after the New Zealand defeat, but he needs to pull himself together quickly.

A win against Australia this week is of great importance, if only to prove that measuring a team — any team — against the All Blacks is a fruitless exercise. The 23-23 draw against the Wallabies in Perth must be parlayed into a solid home win, and then we can all go back to fretting about how bad the defeat in Cape Town might be next Saturday. 

Advertisting

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.