The time is now
There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction - John F. Kennedy
It’s difficult to read the above quotation and not think about the Springbok coaching position right now.
Over the past few weeks we have seen a flurry of speculative articles across many of the media titles in this country, ranging from new names to the usual suspects.
I am sure there are complex problems that need to be sorted out with lawyers etc before SA Rugby can make a decision one way or another, but right now a decision needs to be made and announced.
If it is one thing that 2016 – the Springbok horror year – showed us, it is that a lack of action has a major impact on the preparations for the test season. Allister Coetzee’s appointment only in April was used by many in rugby circles as one of the excuses for the Boks poor form during the year.
Rugby fans were promised a comprehensive review of the Springbok year by rugby bosses, which happened before Christmas and then a decision that would be made in January.
We’re now in February and no such announcement has taken place.
And it seems that every single day that goes by there is another article about whether Allister Coetzee will be kept in the position, or whether he will be replaced by Rassie Erasmus (or Jake White, or Johan Ackermann, depending on who you are reading).
The changes hopefully brought about by the Coaching Indaba and the Conditioning Indaba will hopefully start to show at the various franchises and the new willingness to get SA Rugby back on track means that at a franchise level at least, there is a lot of hard work going on.
Depending on who you listen too, the decision has been taken to keep Coetzee until after the June series, or replace him with Erasmus right away.
I think it is safe to assume that most fans – whichever side of that fence you are on – will want SA Rugby to come out and make a decision as soon as possible.
After all, if you are going to keep Coetzee on until June, it would make a lot of sense to announce it as early as possible. Ditto with Erasmus, as there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work and planning that needs to be finalised before the June test series even starts.
And spare a thought for the SA under-20 team as well, whose coach still hasn’t been appointed despite plans to do so in December.
Contrast this to the All Blacks, who held a two-day camp a few weeks back, and have already completed their planning for the year. Players know the fitness levels they have to achieve, they know what is expected of them if they want to don the black jersey.
Contrast the under-20 scenario to England, who named their squad last September and have had 3 training camps already to prepare for the Junior World Championship.
The Junior Boks held camps last week run by acting High Performance Manager Louis Koen, but without a coach installed they could be an exercise in futility as whoever is appointed could have a very different outlook on how they want to prepare.
And at the back of this a reminder that Koen and former Springbok logistics manager Charles Wessels are both still in acting positions in the High Performance Department, and no permanent Director of Rugby has been found to replace Rassie Erasmus yet.
If any motivation was needed, the way the Blitzboks have played over the past few years, dominating the Sevens circuit and being a force in the shortened game comes mostly down to meticulous planning, attention to detail and getting the small things right. SA Rugby have proven they can do this with Sevens, who are top of the World Series, and this should be the benchmark.
Springbok rugby right now needs leadership, clarity and direction for the national team to regain the stature they lost in the 2016 season.
They need time to plan, a clear sense of purpose and goals, and communication that is clear and concise about the path ahead.
And that requires action from those who make the decisions, action now rather than in a few months.
The longer it takes, the less preparation the Springboks will have ahead of their three-test series against France.
And that will be the real tragedy.