Toetie, A victim of circumstance or just plain unlucky?

Written by Henko Pienaar (Mutley)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks, WP on 9 Sep 2016 at 10:34
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Most people will not agree with me, but I think Allister Coetzee is a good coach, he is one dimensional in his approach, but with the right players his approach wins games. Whether he is the right person for the Bok job is still a question, but he has certainly achieved enough to warrant his selection.

Let’s go back to Coetzee’s days coaching the Stormers. His game plan revolved around a big strong pack of forward, with loosies that can bully their opponents, a flyhalf that almost never misses and centers tackle like they are possessed, forcing the opposition into making mistakes and your flyhalf nailing 95% of his goals. He also had a fullback that could spark his counter attack that forced his opponents to kick the ball out rather than risking the counter attack, just to lose the line out against his towering locks.

Back then he had Schalk Burger, Duane Vermuelen, Francois Louw and later Eben Etzebeth, to give you that go forward, to soften up the other team, to force them into making mistakes because of the pressure and then he had Peter Grant and Demitri Catrakilis to kick them to victory, furthermore Juan de Jongh, Juan de Villiers and Jaque Fourie relentless in defense in their prime. Gio Aplon and later Cheslin Kolbe were always exiting and a credible threat on the counter attack and how many line outs has Andries Bekker and Eben Etsebeth stolen over the years?

Coetzee had a good game plan with players that fit in with his game plan to win games. Other than the players, Coetzee always had a good leadership group within his camp (De Jongh, Bekker, De Villiers, Burger) to help guide the new players and keep them calm under pressure (Except in knock out games where the Stormers always chocked, but that is a story for another time).Coetzee had the game plan to win games.

But what happened?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Coetzee, like most people, banked on the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls to have good seasons. Not the Lions. The Lions play a fast paced, free flowing, run your opponents off their feet game. Not the game plan of Coetzee. Then to make matters worse, the players that Coetzee was banking on to give him his game plan is horribly out of form (Francois Louw, Damian de Allende, Willie Le Roux, Adriaan Strauss), or out injured (Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Duane Vermeulen).

Now suddenly Coetzee has to pick the form players from the Lions and try to force their attacking mindset into a more conservative approach. We all know what happened to Elton Jantjies when he was at the Stormers in 2013. As a brilliant attacking player as Jantjies is, he cannot maintain a 95% kicking record, he cannot kick the ball with tactical precision, but he can create a brilliant 95m try and put finishers in gaps to score tries. But he cannot play the game plan.

Faf is another player that can’t play a tactical game, Mapoe is a finisher and needs to be put in a gap, but De Allende cannot do that.

One might argue that Coetzee does need to adapt his game plan, but the guy was thrown into the deep end, appointed in the middle of the Super Rugby season, was forced get Stick as his backline coach (We all know the Kings are such an attacking threat) and Van Graan (The forward coach that thought a hooker is what he gets in his room every night). Coetzee went what is familiar to him, he went to game plan he knows, but International rugby is cruel and unforgiving. There is no time to adjust.

Is his game plan old and outdated? Maybe it is, but how can we know if he has to coach a team blindfolded with both hands tied behind his back. It is easy to call his game plan outdated, but if he does not have the resources to use for his game plan, how can you blame him? It is like taking a knife to a gun fight.

I think next year will be the watershed year for Coetzee. He will start to have a sense of International Rugby and start to adjust his game plan, get to know the players and settle on a team he can take to 2019. Right now it is chaos, purely administratively created chaos. Next year we will be able to see whether Coetzee is the right man for the job or if what he achieved at the Stormers was pure luck.

I for one hope Coetzee do get it right and the Boks start to win their games. You first need to crawl before you can walk. He needs to see what is working and what/who needs to go.

Ps this is just my opinion. I am just a rugby lover not a rugby expert.


  • naah, he’s not a victim of circumstance or unlucky. He’s just a kak coach. Relying on on a big pack of forwards and a 95% kicker when you have them available is not coaching. It’s relying.

  • Comment 1, posted at 09.09.16 10:46:07 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • Thanks Mutley. Great article!

  • Comment 2, posted at 09.09.16 10:54:26 by gregkaos Reply
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  • I have to be honest to me a coach should not be a guy with a 20 page playbook and one dimensional game plan that forces his team to follow his plays. Maybe I am wrong, Maybe I watch to many sports movies where the coach is the person that takes a bunch of individual players and assess their strong-points and sees how he can position the player in the team so that not only the player reaches their full potential but also the team.

    Very few successful coaches set a game-plan and then find out who the team is… unless the game plan is extremely dynamic and like a glove one size fits all.

    Even in a game of rugby a game plan that has been selected based on players is a broad set of guidelines… its up to the people on the pitch to realise what needs to be adapted and how… and that can only be done if they have the confidence and knowledge to do so.

    I hope that next year is going to be better… because right now the coach is bashing a square peg into a round hole and if he continues like this the peg will lose its edge and eventually go into the hole smoothly but will be a battered version of what it could be…instead of the coach moving the peg to the square hole next to it.

  • Comment 3, posted at 09.09.16 11:01:27 by Warren Harvey Reply

  • Well written Mutley, you say not a rugby expert, but you make more sense than most of them.

  • Comment 4, posted at 09.09.16 11:14:13 by pierre_mackie Reply
  • Nice article Mutley!
    To add my 2 cents to this I think the game plan is out dated as very rarely can your forwards dominate international teams as they did in the past. Most of the “smaller” countries have stepped up physically (or sometimes just raided other countries players) thus making forward play more competitive. The old guard thus have to adapt their play or these smaller countries will catch up with them (like they’re doing with the Bokke).

  • Comment 5, posted at 09.09.16 11:18:49 by JD Reply
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  • Good article- well thought out and reasoned.
    I am all for giving guys especially coaches the benefit of the doubt (probably as i have witnessed first hand how coaching is more intricate than a few words on a computer screen).
    As you say AC is a good coach. His WP teams were very tough to beat and he won more often than he lost. Just because people dont like the style his team played doesnt mean he is a bad coach.
    game plans dont become bad overnight…they are still good but require the right personnel to be selected.
    At the moment you can see AC is looking a bit puzzled and struggling to find the right path. He has Joe Public calling for the Boks to be playing like flavour of the month the Lions, yet the Lions players in key positions for him are making mistakes and the Lions way of playing either wins big or loses big.
    He hasnt helped himself by making some poor selections and hoping the players come good for him.
    This will be a very tough year for AC…but going into next year he needs to make a choice at the crossroads….play high risk, high reward rugby with only form players…or play low risk rugby and select those that can play that way. Either way he will get heavily criticized…its part and parcel of the Bok coaching job.

  • Comment 6, posted at 09.09.16 11:21:39 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 6) : it’s part of coaching sport. If the team win it’s the players but if they lose it’s the coach that lost the game 😉

  • Comment 7, posted at 09.09.16 11:29:22 by JD Reply
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  • To me, a coach has to have the ability to do everything for his team, appoint his assistants and be able to choose his own squad at all times.

    Unfortunately, we all know that some players are being forced onto Coetzee, some assistants are being forced on him, and then suddenly you cannot blame only him.

    But what I will say, is that I am sure he selects his own team from the squad given to him, and with that squad, he is not always making the right calls. How much influence he really has over it all, is the crux of the matter..

  • Comment 8, posted at 09.09.16 11:29:40 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • When I started reading about AC’s coaching at the Stormers I thoght tha he must have swept away all opposition put in front of him, and then reality set in and I realised he had not, he achieved some good results with the Stormers but did not dominate for any amount of time and when he did it was not because of anything but dogged defence. Now when you set out all those great players that he had at his disposal his record at the Stormers actually starts taking on a very average look.

    Having said that I think he is the logical coach for SA with all its trials and tribulations, this does not mean that I think he will be a successful coach (I doubt he will) but more that he will be the best suited to go the distance of his coaching term, and with that hope to improve / grow on what he has (is allowed) to work with.

  • Comment 9, posted at 09.09.16 11:31:39 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 7) : You are pretty correct. Any coach that thinks they doing well- just take the Bok coaching job….you will very quickly find out what you are doing wrong :mrgreen:

  • Comment 10, posted at 09.09.16 11:47:21 by SheldonK Reply

  • @JD (Comment 5) : personally i think South Africa has the abbilty to genetically produce freakishly big people like in the past and that the only other country that could match our size was the pacific Islanders ,thats why we only lost to the AB because they were the only other country that could match us for size ,I do believe that SA stil produses freakishly big people but we dont use them ,how many countrys can produce a hooker as big as bismarck or marx ? or a lock as big as lood de jager I disagree with you saying that “smaller countries”could match us physically becuase if we pick the right players they cant.

  • Comment 11, posted at 09.09.16 11:52:28 by schrodingers cat Reply

    schrodingers cat
  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 9) : And Firstly…..nice article Mutley, it will generate some good debate and insights. 😎

  • Comment 12, posted at 09.09.16 12:05:49 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @schrodingers cat (Comment 11) : oh but you are so mistaking. Quick look at 2015 World cup stats:
    Ave pack weights:
    Wales 115.21kg
    RSA, OZ, Eng, France 113.85kg
    Scot, NZ, Ireland 112.94kg
    USA, Georgia, ROM 112.04kg
    Tonga, Italy 111.13kg
    Fiji, Samoa 110.68kg
    Argentina 110.22kg
    Japan, Namibia 109.77kg
    Canada 108.86kg
    Uruguay 103.87kg

    Yes in years gone bye you would have been spot on but the professional nature of the game has resulted in players moving all over the world with “smaller” rugby countries benefiting from an “over flow” of players from the traditional power house countries (as well as Pacific Islanders) looking to play international rugby. Money changed the rugby landscape.

  • Comment 13, posted at 09.09.16 12:49:12 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 13) : Uruguay perhaps need some food parcels sent their way…

  • Comment 14, posted at 09.09.16 12:53:17 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 8) : “Unfortunately, we all know that some players are being forced onto Coetzee, some assistants are being forced on him, and then suddenly you cannot blame only him.”
    This is so true but, and its a massive but, AC knew exactly how the land lay and what the set up and conditions would be, he must have been happy with that and thus applied and was appointed so, in the cold light of day, he will and should be judged on the results he gets on the field.

  • Comment 15, posted at 09.09.16 12:54:27 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 13) : They seem to be breeding them very big in the UK these days, forwards and backs.

  • Comment 16, posted at 09.09.16 12:56:58 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 15) :

    Fair point…

    If you don’t like the rules, don’t get involved. He took the job knowing all this, so fair enough.

  • Comment 17, posted at 09.09.16 12:58:31 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 6) : I was one of the people that was willing to give AC a fair chance to see what he can produce as I feel any new coach should have some time to test the waters. I was never too attentive about AC when he was at the Stormers like I am now. My observations of him are that I just don’t think the guy has a tough enough approach and personality for the game. He takes losses very easily and his personality suggests nothing that he is a guy who can rally his troops or make them buy into a specific game plan, if there even is one. He doesn’t have the support structures he had at the Stormers at the moment and to me it exposes his weaknesses. I have to give the guy credit for having the balls to make changes when players are not performing, but look at the ones he made. He dropped Mapoe along with De Allende, why? I reckon he’d feel to bad to admit that De Allende was the problem(Stormer) so he dropped both and brought in his old buddy de Jong(Stormer) and a new partner and he plays 4 out of the 7 backline players out of their best positions, that does not make any sense. He’s not a good coach IMO.

  • Comment 18, posted at 09.09.16 13:18:36 by Quintin Reply

  • @Quintin (Comment 18) : Look everyone has their own opinions on coaches and thats fair enough. However people often say things on purely assumptions and then deem them to be facts. I very much doubt AC takes losses very easily- think its quite the opposite. He is a calm guy so isnt going to go ranting and raving and throwing his toys around the changeroom, he isnt that type of individual and it doesnt make a coach good because he has a feisty temper. AC has got selections wrong there is no doubting that and that has been his weakness so far. Whether we like to admit it or not South African rugby is pretty weak at the moment overall. Yes the Lions made the super rugby final, but they also got smashed by the Canes and Highlanders and Crusaders during the season. I am quickly losing patience with AC though as i want to see a direction from him- either stick to what you know and fully go with it or fully embrace the high risk approach. Its that uncertainty that comes through in his selections and the players performances.

  • Comment 19, posted at 09.09.16 13:27:13 by SheldonK Reply

  • Why do people call him Toetie?

  • Comment 20, posted at 09.09.16 14:08:15 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 16) : think maybe all the ex SA guys living there might have something to do with it?!?!

  • Comment 21, posted at 09.09.16 14:31:51 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 13) : you cant just prove me wrong by using 1 stat because it will obviously vary depending on who you pick, That stat is deceiving because Schalk brits would bring the Average down as will schalk burger , siya kolisi ,Victor Matfield ,however if you were to calculate our heaviest starting 8 from the players that were available for that world cup we would be the heaviest . And its not just about size but also about aggression and physicality e.g if you compare piere spies to Duane vermeulen its obvious that they are the same size but Duane is just more Physical. Same with a guy like willem alberts how many countries can produce a guy with the physicality of alberts , and that’s where we have an advantage above other nations, we just have to PICK THE RIGHT PACK which we don’t do for some reason, if we played the 2015 wc with the starting 15 from 2013 we wouldve won

  • Comment 22, posted at 09.09.16 14:50:16 by schrodingers cat Reply

    schrodingers cat
  • @SheldonK (Comment 19) : It’s exactly that uncertainty that frustrates me as well, hence I’m saying ‘…that I just don’t think the guy has a tough enough approach and personality for the game.” He needs to take control of the situation he’s in, I’m not seeing that from him. He doesn’t look to be cut out to make tough decisions. Wasn’t meaning a coach needs to have a feisty temper to be good.

  • Comment 23, posted at 09.09.16 16:10:59 by Quintin Reply

  • @Quintin (Comment 23) : Look i agree on the uncertainty part. I do get the feeling he is also uncertain of his environment. Not sure how much faith he has in Stick and Van Graan. Proudfoot we know he is happy with but you need all the coaches in sync. There is also the uncertainty around whether he will be allowed to pick overseas based players going forward. How does a new SARU president affect him? It seems he has to pick a local captain but prefers an overseas player in that position. So i do get the mitigating factors…but still want to see some direction from the Boks.

  • Comment 24, posted at 09.09.16 16:15:29 by SheldonK Reply

  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 1) : I agree. A good coach would know the pool he is selecting from the kind of game they play and adapts to whatever seems most successfull for that country that year. One dimensional already spells incompetent in my book. I doubt all blacks coaches just bank on crusaders winning and model their plans only on that. Sometimes you get hurricanes coming in from left field…

  • Comment 25, posted at 09.09.16 16:32:08 by coolfusion Reply


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