Last week there were rumours going around in the SA rugby circles of Allister Coetzee possibly succeeding Heyneke Meyer as Springbok coach. This came as quite a surprise to me as I expected a foreign coach to be the favourite for the job. But thinking about it now, Allister Coetzee for the Springbok job makes a lot of sense especially when it comes to transformation.
Coetzee while at WP rugby unearthed quite a few rugby players of colour, who I believe are good enough to don the Springbok jersey. Two black African rugby players in particular, Siya Kolisi and Scarra Ntubeni, have been knocking on the Springbok door for a while now but have been overlooked by current Bok coach, Heyneke Meyer.
At the Rugby World Cup, Meyer regularly fielded a staggering 19 white players out of the 23 man match day squad. This is totally unacceptable for a country with a population that is largely non-white. The only players of colour in the starting line-up were veterans Bryan Habana & JP Pietersen, with Trevor Nyakane on the bench. Heyneke Meyer’s lack of trust in black players was exposed in the game against Japan, in which the Springboks suffered the biggest defeat in the history of rugby. He inexplicably chose Pieter-Steph du Toit, a specialist lock, to replace injured Willem Alberts, a specialist flanker, instead of Siya Kolisi who is also a specialist flank. This lack of trust in black players is one of the reasons why Coetzee is much better suited for the Springbok job than Meyer.
But merely picking players of colour won’t be enough for Coetzee. He also has to change his conservative gameplan and that of many coaches in the history of Springbok rugby and adopt a more modern and expansive approach. The game of rugby has evolved and the days of the Springbok’s “skop and donner” approach are over, as Japan recently showed them at the World Cup.
So if he were to get the job, then Coetzee can’t adopt the same negative approaches as Jake White & Heyneke Meyer. He needs to play a more attacking style of rugby that includes not just the backline but the forwards aswell and needs to select players that can not only do set pieces well but athletes that are fit and mobile with ball in hand also.
There are quite a few talented rugby players of colour around the country that can definitely make the Springbok side. In the forwards, Scarra Ntubeni has to be selected as hooker. Trevor Nyakane must come into the starting line-up. Both Siya Kolisi & Oupa Mahoje must be in contention for the loose forward roles either starting or from the bench. Nizaam Carr could also be an option. In the backline, Lions duo Howard Mnisi & Lionel Mapoe should be given a good run as the Springboks starting centre pairing, with Juan De Jongh another option either starting or on the bench. Elton Jantjies or possibly even Kurt Coleman could come into the fold and should be looked at as possible options as running flyhalves. Rudy Paige should now be given his chance to claim the scrumhalf position. Lwazi Mvovo now deserves a permanent spot in the backline either as winger or as a fullback. The likes of S’bura Sithole, Tera Mtembu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds, Seabelo Senatla and many other promising players of colour need to also be considered.
The selection of these players will also inspire the next generation of black rugby players and we will see many more youngsters of colour wanting to play rugby professionally.
So if Allister Coetzee can select black players and apply a more attack based gameplan, then I think he will be the ideal man to lead a new transformed South African rugby team.