Was Allister Coetzee overmatched as Springbok coach or was he sabotaged?

John Goliath, KweséESPN4 Minute Read
Allister CoetzeeCharlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

SA Rugby and Allister Coetzee finally buried the battle-axes this week after months of speculation, and came to an agreement about the now-former Springbok coach's future.

KweséESPN looks at three issues that may have led to Coetzee's demise as Bok coach, and also investigate his claims that he was set up to fail by his employers.

Coetzee is a walking contradiction...

Coetzee contradicted himself many times during his tenure, especially when it came to the backing of players.

During his first squad announcement he gleefully explained why he'd picked Sharks flyhalf Garth April as the third-choice No 10 in his first squad: "I think it's important to note that one shouldn't be scared to expose young flyhalves early at that level."

A couple of weeks later, April, after an average performance against an England A side for which he was drafted in late, was dropped for the experienced Morné Steyn.

Ahead of the Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Bloemfontein, Coetzee backed Raymond Rhule to the hilt on the Monday, despite the winger missing a plethora of tackles in the against the All Blacks in the 57-0 drubbing. On Tuesday -- the next day -- SA Rugby sent out a press release saying the player has been sent back to his franchise team.

Ignoring talented black players was a big no-no ...

Transformation forms a big part of a Springbok coach's Key Performance Index.

Sharks wing S'busiso Nkosi.Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

It has to be said that Coetzee was probably better than his predecessor Heyneke Meyer when it came to picking black players for the national team, but he also wasted an opportunity to allow more players to show off their skills at the highest level.

Players like Sibusiso Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am had good seasons, yet Am only saw a couple of minutes against Wales on the end-of-year tour in 2017, while Nkosi ended up carrying the tackle bags during the home leg of the Rugby Championship despite the incumbent wings' struggles.

Talented Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant was forced to play on the wing on the 2017 European tour, while the bumbling Andries Coetzee played in all the Boks' matches and cost them dearly against Ireland and Wales.

Big defeats to rivals, and many unwanted firsts ...

Coetzee's tenure started on a sour note when the Boks lost to 14-man Ireland in Cape Town -- a first Test victory for the Irish over the Springboks on South African soil.

After managing to win the series against the men from the Emerald Isle, the Boks started off the Rugby Championship by recording their first-ever away defeat at the hands of Argentina.

Coetzee's troops played to a draw with the Barbarians during the opening game of the 2016 end-of-year tour, before suffering arguably their most humiliating loss over the last two years -- a shock 20-18 defeat at the hands of Italy in Florence.

The Springboks have also taken a massive step back against their bitterest rivals, New Zealand, who gave the South Africans two 50-point defeats, including that 57-0 drubbing in Albany.

However, the straw that broke the camel's back may have been the 38-3 defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin, which was one of the worst displays by any Bok side since readmission.

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth after the 57-0 defeat againstthe All Blacks.Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

... But, was Coetzee actually set up to fail, as he suggests in his leaked letter?

Coetzee was appointed in April 2016, less than two months before his first assignment against the Irish. He was given carte blanche in terms of picking playing personnel, but wasn't able to pick his own management team.

The only member of the coaching staff that was the former scrumhalf's pick was scrum coach Matthew Proudfoot, while Coetzee was also saddled with an inexperienced medical team.

Following a rocky start in 2016, with only four wins in 12 Tests, Coetzee was given reinforcements in the form of defensive consultant Brendan Venter, and Cheetahs coach Franco Smith as the new backline guru.

However, SA Rugby then decided that only players who have 30 or more caps would be eligible to play for the national team. But now, post-Coetzee, it seems like the rule is going to be scrapped, paving the way for the new coach to pick from the best available overseas talent.

Rassie Erasmus, the new SA Rugby director of rugby, is expected to lead the Boks into the series against England in June, and has already been busy assembling a management team, and making plans to combat Eddie Jones' team.