NEWS
02/02/2018 14:36 SAST | Updated 02/02/2018 14:36 SAST

'Goodbye And Good Riddance' – Bok Fans React To Coetzee Firing

"I have always held Springbok rugby dear to my heart, and will continue to do so," the former coach insists.

Newly fired Springbok rugby coach Allister Coetzee
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Newly fired Springbok rugby coach Allister Coetzee

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).

Issei Kato / Reuters

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."

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.

PA Images via Getty Images

But there were signs that Coetzee was bound to depart sooner or later:

Team identity

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.

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 .

AFP/Getty Images

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.

Record defeats

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.

Read: Shem, Bokke! 5 Signs The Springboks Were Bound To Get Thrashed By New Zealand

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.

Angry fans

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: