Coetzee: Ja, well, no fine

“Fine” is not a word Tank Lanning wants on his tombstone, as it is the definition of taking the path most trod, but as per his Sport24 column this week, this is how he feels about Coetzee’s appointment.

Tank Lanning

Would the RFU have broken the bank for Allister Coetzee?

How many provincial unions are chasing Mzwandile Stick as a backline coach?

This not to belittle either man, but to make a point. That being to question whether we as a nation are chasing excellence, or settling for people who are happy to pursue an ulterior mandate?

Yes we have a unique situation here in South Africa, but as said in a previous column, you simply cannot task the coach of the highest team in the land with transformation. That is a cop out and an admittance that all other attempts in this arena have failed.

And that’s why seeing sports minister Fikile Mbalula, late as usual, sitting at Tuesday’s press conference looking like the cat that ate the cream, got my goat.

“I don’t believe it is a token appointment,” said Mbalula. “Today is a great moment for rugby,” continued the minister. “I thank the board for the appointment. I am happy with where rugby is going with regard to transformation. It’s no longer cheap talk.”

Really? If transformation is such a biggie, and clearly it is, then Mbalula and the government, together with SARU, the schools, clubs, universities, provinces, and the franchises must be tasked with giving the Bok coach more players of colour to pick.

Not putting a black coach in place because he will be more inclined to pick black players!

All this does is put Coetzee on the back foot from the get go.

People, including me, chased Heyneke Meyer out of town for various reasons, but mine and many others gripe was primarily about the dour and old fashioned brand of rugby we were playing, and not believing him to be the man to evolve the SA game.

Coetzee was chased out of the Cape because his team had been labelled the “Wall of Cape Town” such was his focus on defence, along with his inability to win games once through to the knock out stages of Super Rugby.

So is he really the man who is going to rock the boat and rattle cages while improving skills and conditioning in order to implement a more modern attack based game?


Nope, this era is about new objectives and new KPI’s. Not that they are mutually exclusive from on field success, but hells bells, that is a big ask. So what we need from SARU is their public backing of Coetzee by making these KPI’s known to all. Having a set of private objectives, yet setting the media and public loose on him around only on-field success would just be unfair!

Already Coetzee has had to defend the Stick appointment, declaring it his responsibility to develop young coaches of colour. This while coaching a side that needs to be 50% black by 2019. Is this fair on a single human?

“Nice” or “Fine” are not words that I want on my tombstone when I join Frans Erasmus and Tommie Loubscher propping up the bar at heaven’s rugby pub, as I think they are the definition of taking the path most trod or fence sitting. Yet this is how I feel about Coetzee’s appointment.

And perhaps given the new set of objectives, a safe appointment is what’s needed, but do not call it chasing excellence, and do not ask me to get excited about it.

Allister Coetzee is a good person, and a great rugby man. The Bok coaching job is factually the toughest gig in world rugby. That he has chosen to take it on shows character and guts. As a South African I will support him 100%.

But let’s be open an honest about his objectives, and judge him accordingly.


  1. Looks like Steve Hansen is going to continue the amicable relationship he had with Meyer who he still says he rated. He says he rates Coetzee’s ability as a coach and feels he deserves to be the Boks coach.

    “but it’s a very tough environment that they’re operating in over there,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Sport.

    Coetzee’s biggest challenge will be to transform the Springbok team so that they will be able to field a team that is 50 percent black at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

    “What is different for him is that they’ve got a quota system and sometimes I think that means they’re not picking the best players they can,” Hansen added. “It makes it tough, but that’s the way it is in that country and you go in knowing that. I’m sure he’ll deal with that really well. Hansen said New Zealanders find it difficult to understand South Africa’s quota system but he respected that it was part of the country’s way of righting the wrongs of its apartheid past.

    “It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around but we didn’t live in that country and it’s history … it’s not for us to bag (criticise) them.”

    He feels, however, that anything other than merit-based selection risked undermining a team’s performance and confidence. “At the end of the day, one thing I do know is that your sporting teams have got to be selected on merit because if they’re not people start questioning whether they should or shouldn’t be in the team,” said Hansen. “What that does is it affects your confidence and the golden rule is that if you’ve got a team that’s confident, they’ll play well, no matter who they are.”

    1. Yep saw that … Amicable indeed, because he knows how to play the game. But he has a proper dig at not selecting on merit, saying that it affects team confidence, something so very key to any team!

  2. Tank, I think you’re going too far with the way you’re questioning Coetzee’s and, especially, Mzwandile Stick’s qualifications.

    First with AC: I know you’re not excited about his record, and would have preferred someone else. To be frank, I’m not too excited about him either. But he is eminently qualified for the job (if you read his CV), and so I think it is absolutely wrong to suggest he is a token appointment. A white coach with the same CV may also draw criticism, but would not be called a token. You are too thoughtful of a rugby commentator to stoop to that kind of criticism. Stick to his record, and as he coaches the Boks, to his performance in the job.

    Likewise with Mzwandile Stick. It sickens me how so many articles have been published questioning whether he is qualified, when there have been zero articles questioning the credentials of the other 12 coaching staff. I cannot see a reason for this, other than the fact that Stick is black. The media is, quite simply, reflecting and perpetuating the racist myth that black people are not good enough to be selected on merit.

    You are one of many commentators who have called for a fresh approach, for more expansive game plans, for getting rid of the conservative mindset. Here is a man who has coached the immensely successful Blitzboks for several years, coming on as backline coach. Fresh mindset. If he were white, you would not be prejudging him as you are.

    1. Nowhere in the column, or in any other communication, have I called Coetzee a token. Settling for someone who is happy to take the current directive, yes. Would Eddie Jones take the job in it’s current guise? If “eminently qualified” is reaching the Super Rugby playoffs and putting out a defense orientated team, then we are going to have to agree to disagree. Re Stick – prove yourself before being tried out at international level. The Kings have the worst defence and attack stats in the tournament. Re prejudging, are you not doing exactly that to me by pre-supposing my thinking would be different if these guys were white?

      1. Well, yes, you didn’t say ‘AC is a token’ in as many words, but you did write this:

        ““I don’t believe it is a token appointment,” said Mbalula. “Today is a great moment for rugby,” continued the minister. “I thank the board for the appointment. I am happy with where rugby is going with regard to transformation. It’s no longer cheap talk.”

        Really? If transformation is such a biggie, and clearly it is, then Mbalula and the government, together with SARU, the schools, clubs, universities, provinces, and the franchises must be tasked with giving the Bok coach more players of colour to pick.

        Not putting a black coach in place because he will be more inclined to pick black players!”

        Now, I may be misinterpreting what you wrote there, but it seemed clear that you were directly contradicting Mbalula saying he is not a token. You also directly bring race into the reason he was appointed. Thereby suggesting that you believe he was chosen for his race above his qualifications. That, while you may not have used the word, is the definition of a token.

        Regarding Stick, have you written a column about any of the other 12 coaching staff questioning their credentials? Have you tweeted about them being brought in from ‘Outer Mongolia’ and questioning whether they are appointed on merit? I don’t need to prejudge or speculate about whether you would treat Stick differently if he were white – you are already treating him differently to his white colleagues!

    2. All I got was Tank thinks Coetzee isn’t the best coach we could get. He has a terrible knock-out rugby record which is concerning because we only really measure a coach’s greatness on whether they can win the world cup. I don’t think he’s the right man for that job but hopefully he proves us all wrong.

      1. Fair enough to critique the appointment of the coach, talk about his record in previous jobs, etc. I myself am not excited about AC as Bok coach, for much the same reasons you mention in your comment. What bothers me is the way journalists (including Tank in this article) bring race into their criticism of the appointment. That is what I’m complaining about.

  3. Hi Tank I share your views. Maybe a better appointment or job description for AC was to be director of rugby / black player development in SA. AC together with a team, setup and implement those systems / structures / incentives from school level right trough to SR level.

    For me that is the crux of your article and the situation of rugby in our land. The bok coach cannot create skilled boks that can win WC, he can take a developed player and sharpen his skills and give him test experience yes, but not much more. How many days or hours even does the bok coach even have to work with players during a year.
    No the system/s must develop the player.

  4. I’m happy for Coetzee, of all the South African coaches he has the best qualifications for the job. At least from the local coaches who made themselves available, and sadly SA is not yet ready for an international head coach.

    What saddens me is this whole “forced 50% black representation” nonsense. Coetzee was successful at WP with transformation because of the pipeline of players he had available. He did do a great job blooding the youngsters, no doubt about that. But the fact is we as fans were excited when the likes of Kolisi, Carr, Kolbe, Nothse, Scarra (just to name a few) were first selected because we new they were young, exciting players who was the best upcoming junior in their position. Not because of their race.

    Sadly, I can’t help feeling that Fikile is now setting Coetzee up for failure. We should be celebrating that a non-white coach was selected based on merit. Unfortunately chasing the 50% ratio required will probably mean a few more losses on the way. South African fans are ruthless and if the bokke are not nr 1, the criticism will be never-ending.

    Even worse, will Coetzee be forced to pick talented black players before they are 100% ready for the international stage and in doing so destroy what could have been great careers if they had more time to develop? Will black players feel alienated when they are picked and always second guess whether it was due to form or race, even when they are the best player in the position? This 50% target nonsense could end up doing more damage to transformation.

    I sincerely hope I am wrong and will support Coetzee and the team 100% all the way. I just wish SARU and Fikile would too.

Comments are closed.