After two woeful seasons as Springbok coach, 54-year-old Allister Coetzee became the first coach in 15 years to be axed while still under contract in SA rugby's hot seat.
"I have always held Springbok rugby dear to my heart, and will continue to do so"– Allister Coetzee
Coetzee, who was contracted up to and including the 2019 World Cup‚ won only 11 of 25 Tests (44 percent), and coached the Boks to record defeats against New Zealand and Ireland during 2016 and 2017.
In 2016, the Boks won only four of 12 Tests (33.3 percent), while in 2017 they won seven of 13 Tests (54 percent).
The signs were there, and when Bok results continued in free-fall, his departure was inevitable. The long-postponed announcement was made on Friday
Coetzee commented: "I have always held Springbok rugby dear to my heart, and will continue to do so. For that reason, I think now is the time for the team and me strike out in new directions. I wish Springbok rugby every success in the future, as I have always done."
#Springboks let this be the dawn of a new day— xoliswa_sa (@xoliswa_sa) February 2, 2018
We must and we will be world champions again
Prior to his sacking, Coetzee wrote a "scathing" letter, according to TimesLive, claiming he was set up to fail‚ which seemed to be the final nail in his coffin.
But there were signs that Coetzee was bound to depart sooner or later:
Quotas in SA sport were introduced to diversify it; to allow athletes who are not white the opportunity to shine in their respective codes. In 2014, then-minister of sport Fikile Mbalula announced a 60:40 quota system, to be enforced to promote the inclusion of black players – in particular, the Springboks.
Sacking Allister Coetzee won't help. He's not the problem with the #Springboks. As long as SARU doesn't transform the sport, the talent pool will keep on shrinking to the point of recalling a retired Victor Matfield from the Supersport studios next year, again!— Themba Mbuyisa (@Malabulabu945) February 2, 2018
Unfortunately for Coetzee, he was supposed to the solution to the transformation of the side's identity – although it proved one of the factors of his downfall. Springboks team identity and lack of transformation always cast their shadow .
We are torn between merit and identity: should transformation dominate the selection Springboks, if they are winning without black players? Or should we focus more on transforming our identity, even if the team is a work in progress?
Unfortunately for Coetzee, this progress was taking far too long.
Coetzee gone finally! Put race to one side here....this is a results business and it's as simple as that! Springboks deserve better and Erasmus will no doubt turn it around! #springboks#coetzee#erasmus #🇿🇦— scrum5ive (@scrum5ive) February 2, 2018
The 2017 Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand was the biggest blow for Coetzee. Beforehand, optimism was high that the Boks could restore national pride.
Then – boom! New Zealand happened.
The All Blacks recorded their biggest win over the Springboks, with a 57-0 thumping in Albany, New Zealand. Coetzee tried his best, plaintively whimpering: "One loss doesn't define this team."
That wasn't all, though – the team also suffered a record loss at the hands of Ireland, going down 38-3. The calls for Coetzee to step down intensified – especially after he took another unwelcome record when Italy beat the Springboks for the first time in 13 attempts in 2016.
As the bad results piled up, the patience of SA rugby fans wore thin. Many in the rugby fraternity took to social media on Friday to share their joy at Coetzee's removal, while others were more charitable, saying he'd had his time, but could not deliver.
Here are some of the reactions:
#AllisterCoetzee SACKED! But then again it should have happened last year already. #Boks Now we wait to get answers on who sabotaged who cause i heard some stories I'll share later— Lucky Montana (@IamLuckyMontana) February 2, 2018
Allister Coetzee pic.twitter.com/PztMdv1AZr