Posts Tagged ‘Allister Coetzee’

Give Allister and Stick a sporting chance

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THE appointment of Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick to the Springbok team represents an opportunity to align rugby with contemporary SA. Let’s not blow it.

Both bring considerable social and political capital. Each has proved himself to be a game-changer. At Western Province, Coetzee showed that you could field a team with eight or nine players of colour and still be the best in the country. In his eight years at the helm, he led the Stormers to the top of the South African conference three times, and won the Currie Cup twice.

Almost half the players in Stick’s Under-19 team, which went on to win the Under-19 Currie Cup, were black, most of them from the Eastern Cape.

Neither came from a culture that privileged whiteness, and they gave the lie to the prevailing wisdom in parts of South African rugby: that black players weaken a team and are the tax you pay to appease the politicians.

Stick grew up in a Port Elizabeth township with a mother who frequently struggled to put food on the table. He attended the local township school, and yet still managed to make it to the top, captaining the Sevens team that won the World Series title in 2008-09.

Coetzee grew up in Grahamstown. He has a vivid memory of watching white boys at nearby Kingswood College play rugby with the best equipment, while he had to walk to the much poorer coloured school down the road. His father died while he was very young and his mother struggled to provide for him and his three siblings.

 

 

ALTHOUGH a talented and ambitious scrumhalf, his race precluded him from playing for SA.

Stick and Coetzee reflect the tough life experiences common to the majority of South Africans, and their elevation to the upper echelons of the game must make it seem much more accessible than it has in the past.

Neither has a chip on the shoulder, or sees himself as a victim. Their victory against the odds they were born into shows character and emotional resilience.

These qualities came in handy when dealing with their respective managements.

Stick answered to the deeply dysfunctional Eastern Province Rugby Union, and Coetzee endured eight years of frequently erratic and interfering management under the Western Province Rugby Union.

But the pressures on the Springbok coach, in particular, are way more intense and, without proper support, Coetzee will struggle.

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) has done well to appoint Coetzee and Stick. But it now needs to prove that this is not window-dressing. It needs to give their new Bok coach all the resources he needs to succeed. Otherwise, his appointment will be seen to be a cynical one, setting him up to fail.

Similar privileges to those accorded to Heyneke Meyer would be a good start.

Saru forked out substantial sums at the start of Meyer’s tenure to enable him to bring his own management team from the Bulls. He was then allowed to add more coaches, such as breakdown specialist, Richie Gray.

As yet, Coetzee does not appear to be similarly indulged. There is no evidence that he has picked any members of the team announced on Tuesday.

Given that he has already been disadvantaged by being appointed three-and-a-half months late, Saru needs to do all it can to help him, otherwise it risks being accused of not giving the same opportunities to a black coach as it gave to a white, Afrikaans one.

The corporate world should come to the party: any new sponsorship deals should be predicated on better governance, which would include equal opportunity for all employees, regardless of colour.

There has been talk of the Super Rugby coaches forming a Bok “selection committee”. This must be rapidly scotched. Meyer fought for — and won — the right to have ultimate say over selection. Rightly, he argued that if he were to be held responsible for winning every game, he needed to be able to pick his team.

The Super Rugby franchises need to play their part and put petty provincial rivalry aside.

The initiative introduced in Meyer’s term of systematically resting key Springbok players during Super Rugby must be continued.

Super Rugby coaches should also give more players of colour some proper game time to increase the pool available to Coetzee.

Fans need to give the new coaching team the benefit of the doubt. A bit of generosity of spirit would go a long way. Fans, particularly those who flock to Ellis Park for the iconic All Black derbies, should learn the first verses of the national anthem so that we are no longer subjected to the dramatic amplification of sound when English and Afrikaans verses are sung. It’s not that difficult. Make an effort.

 

 

DESPITE the autumn chill in the air, there is a sense of spring-time, of new beginnings, about rugby. Unlike Meyer, who looked to seasoned troops right from the start of his campaign, Coetzee will have to start afresh. Most of last year’s team have either retired, are approaching retirement, or are playing abroad.

This should not be a problem for Coetzee, who has proved that he is happy to trust youngsters.

Stick is something of a specialist in turning rookies into stars, given his track record with the Eastern Province Under-19s.

Transformation, which is viewed as a burden by Meyer, will come naturally to Coetzee.

At the Stormers, Coetzee displayed the ability effortlessly to forge racially and culturally diverse teams. Boys of colour were given every opportunity, but so were white players. Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Eben Etzebeth flourished in his time, as did Siya Kolisi, Scarra Ntubeni, and Nizaam Carr.

There is a good chance that, with Coetzee and Stick at the helm, the sense of marginalisation that has plagued black Springboks will be a thing of the past. Under Meyer, Afrikaans was used for team talks, which was alienating for black players. The new Bok set-up hopefully will better reflect our diversity of languages.

Stick’s Under-19s also brought a vibrant culture from their Eastern Cape schools — with traditional isiXhosa war and struggle songs borrowed from their elders.

Some infusion of this into Bok culture could only enrich it.

• McGregor is author of Springbok Factory: What it Takes to be a Bok, and a visiting researcher at the Institute for the Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town.

* This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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THE appointment of Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick to the Springbok team represents an opportunity to align rugby with contemporary SA. Let’s not blow it. Both bring considerable social and political capital. Each has proved himself to be a game-changer. At Western Province, Coetzee showed that you could field a team with eight or nine […]

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Allister, jou lekker ding

News | Non Fiction | South Africa | Uncategorized Comments Off

IT SEEMS pretty certain now that Allister Coetzee will leave the Stormers on a high note, which is excellent news, both for him and for the team he will leave behind. A win against the Lions this weekend will secure the Stormers’ position at the head of the South African conference for the third time in the five years that Coetzee has led the Cape side.

Coetzee jets off to a new coaching job in Japan at the conclusion of the 2015 Super Rugby competition, leaving Western Province in good shape. The Stormers, now second in the overall log, have a shot at a home semifinal. Last Saturday, their Vodacom Cup team made it through to the final after an unbroken nine-game stampede through the pool games. Unfortunately for them, they were pipped to the post by a powerful Pumas team but, nevertheless, it proved that WP has a deep seam of competitive players.

They are also growing able coaches: Vodacom Cup coach, John Dobson, will later this year take over from Coetzee as Currie Cup coach.

Behind the scenes, Western Province director of rugby, Gert Smal, has been quietly putting in place foundations that should ensure solid growth for at least the next few years.

Since he joined Western Province last year, Smal has been on a recruiting drive to increase depth in the junior teams and he has also strengthened the management team. Sports psychologist, Henning Gericke, who accompanied the Proteas to the World Cup earlier this year, is working with all the Western Province teams. The appointment of a kicking coach in Vlok Cilliers is another innovation.

Continuity and institutional memory will be retained through Coetzee’s long-time assistants: backline maestro, Robbie Fleck, and forwards coach, Matt Proudfoot. The unassuming Proudfoot is the power behind the Stormers’ front row, arguably the best in Super Rugby at the moment.

Smal himself brings considerable intellectual capital. The former Springbok flanker was an assistant coach to Jake White from 2003 to 2007, when the Boks won the Rugby World Cup. As assistant coach to Declan Ireland’s Irish team from 2007 to 2013, he gained invaluable international experience and a fresh perspective on the South African rugby environment. The fact that he helped the Irish team take a Six Nations title, a Grand Slam and a Triple Crown didn’t do his reputation any harm.

The question mark hanging over the High Performance Centre in Bellville now is: who will succeed Coetzee as Super Rugby coach?

There are plenty of able and experienced men who would leap at the chance of coaching the Stormers but the shambles at the once proud Sharks shows the perils of jetting in high-profile coaches.

It would reflect well on Western Province’s development structures if they were to choose a home-grown candidate, who has emerged from within their own ranks.

If Dobson does well in the Currie Cup, he will presumably be in the running. Dobson has been with Western Province since 2010. He and his assistant coach, Dawie Snyman, started off with the Under-21s, where there was a focus on bringing through players of colour.

I shadowed the University of Cape Town’s Ikey Tigers through their 2010 Varsity Cup campaign for a book I was writing. Dobson, who holds a BA LLB and an MA in Creative Writing from UCT, was head coach. What struck me was how much thought went into creating a unique culture for the team. They had a theme song called the Poet Warriors. Team talks were infused with poetry and tales of heroism from the First World War.

Being a university team, it was more highbrow than most, but the principle would apply anywhere. Every team needs a story: to cement mutual understanding and strengthen team bonds. You need a narrative to make sense of the vicissitudes of fortune. Someone else has described sports teams as “cauldrons of bubbling emotion”, which seems an accurate description of the devastation that accompanies every loss and the elation of a win.

When it comes to professional rugby, you need a tale to tell the media and the fans. A coach with a facility for words and the ability to spin a convincing yarn has the edge.

The other thing that struck me about Dobson was, after matriculating from Bishops, he spent a year playing for the Elsie’s River club. Mixing with teammates who couldn’t afford proper boots and arrived in a taxi after a night shift at a factory gave him an insight into how most of SA lives.

Western Province is blessed with great diversity among its fan base. Credit then to the coach who makes an attempt to understand the circumstances of players who come from a very different background.

 

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IT SEEMS pretty certain now that Allister Coetzee will leave the Stormers on a high note, which is excellent news, both for him and for the team he will leave behind. A win against the Lions this weekend will secure the Stormers’ position at the head of the South African conference for the third time […]

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