June 18, 2024

An open letter to SA Rugby

Allister Coetzee Saga


  Nr 17 Roman Street



NPC REG NR: 2017/274636/08

The President

South African Rugby Union (SARU)

Cape Town


29th January 2018

Re : Allister Coetzee Saga

Allister Coetzee coach of Springboks during the Springboks Team Announcement on 08 June 2017 at Southern Sun © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

Dear Sir / Madam

We, the SARU Legends, are keenly watching current developments around the Allister Coetzee saga especially after his letter describing his imminent demotion to that of a ‘ceremonial coach’ doing the rounds in the media.

While we do not profess to speak on his behalf, we nevertheless feel it incumbent to relay our position on issues pertaining to South African rugby and which is an integral part for our existence.

There are many within our organisation, from the non racial fold, who have had the privilege of playing alongside him and have known him for a great number of years.

Despite Allister not having pledged his allegiance to us we have felt it necessary to comment on this current situation for we have noted a tendency to follow a set pattern when people of colour is being removed from their positions when coaching national sports teams.

We do not ascribe to conspiracy theories but do find the occurrence of such incidences, concerning the tenure of coaches who hail from disadvantaged backgrounds, quite regular.

This has happened in the same undignified way with; former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, Stanley Raubenheimer (at Western Province) and even with cricket’s national coach Russel Domingo where they were all unceremoniously being kicked to the side of the kerb. Disclaimers by those in authority that race was no yardstick, cannot help to dispel the obvious.

We have observed that the treatment meted out to Allister has taken on a set strategy ever since his tenure as Western Province coach and therefore felt it to be more than appropriate to venture an opinion in this regard.

In order to elucidate further on what we mean by this; on the eve of a Super 15 semi final at Newlands, Schalk Burger withdrew in the dressing room to a stunned team and rugby audience (national and international).

It was similarly on Allister’s watch that an injured Duane Vermeulen, captain of WP at the time surprised everyone when he left South Africa on the eve of a major game for his province to sign a contract to play his rugby for Toulon in France. Everyone was quite bemused at this show of disregard for his province, teammates, coach and supporters.

Even when Allister was appointed as Springbok coach did Duane, once more as Springbok captain this time, rather opt to play in France, leaving the cudgels of captaincy to an inexperienced team member.

It is only now that when talk of Rassie Erasmus’s return to the helm of Springbok rugby is being in the public domain does one sees the sudden mindset change of Duane Vermeulen in deciding to return to South Africa.

We do not personally know Rassie Erasmus and he might for all and intentions be a great bloke but the way he is being held up as the holy grail of rugby by certain rugby scribes, pundits and “those in the know” for the top job makes one instantly see the link with Allister’s demise.

The strategy of bombarding us with Rassie’s return has been mooted a while ago and eventually gained more traction as the Springbok team’s trajectory of wins went south coming full circle with Allister’s letter to the press. We have a meagre recollection of Rassie’s purported ‘geniality’ and brilliance as a coach but cannot ‘see’ what others so blithely ‘see’ of this geniality.

We do not dwell in the realm of conspiracies but cannot deny that it is quite evident that a well orchestrated campaign to marginalise Allister’s position as Springbok coach has been in the offing for some time and that he is being given a raw deal.

Our forte is not in the sphere of the legal options at Allister’s disposal but do interpret a possible right of recourse open to him for such abject treatment, where he might have a case in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) in the arena of constructive dismissal.

Any person with a modicum of self respect and those that know him surely can vouch for his character and that he will not accept such ‘new’ conditions which he is expected to work under; that of a ‘ceremonial coach’.

How patronising and paternalistic in the extreme to expect it of him and which is akin to our not too distant inglorious past of ‘baas en kneg’ relationships. We do not afford our support to any cause as a knee jerk reaction but has with a degree of great disquiet watched the shenanigans displayed in putting down another coach of colour in such an unprofessional manner.

We do not condone nor refute Allister’s claims but do find it uncannily similar to that of Peter de Villiers claims of his demise and this becomes a point which we in the SARU Legends find hard now to simply reject outright.

When Peter de Villiers took over the reins as Springbok coach his successes were attributed to his predecessor, Jake White, but when Allister took over the reins of an inexperienced Springbok team he was judged solely on his misfortunes and not on the putrid record of his predecessor and herein lies the rub.

We will never defend the indefensible but nor will we overlook these blatant anomalies. We simply will not allow for such gross unequal treatment which is so evident here to be masqueraded as the normal run of the mill organisational activities. For that we are much too weary and circumspect.

We believe it is in the best interests of rugby and our country that such issues is our right to comment on and for which we in the former non racial fold have sacrificed greatly and will not simply allow for it to be trampled on and by extension; Stanley, Peter and Allister.

The hard fought victories of our non racial sports fraternity need to be respected in equal measure and be held in the same esteem as that of those who cannot lay claim to such noble contributions, for without us South African sport and rugby would not enjoy the fruits it currently does.

We will monitor the continued saga with an eagle eye and will ensure our voices are heard by the highest offices in the land whenever and wherever we perceive unjust treatment of which we have vast experiences off.

We have contributed to the game of rugby for more than a 100 years and wish to remind all and sundry that the days where people of colour only carried the tog bags are long gone.

We trust that your organisation will afford our communication the due cognisance it is expected.

Thanking you

Yours faithfully

Sedick Crombie

Media and Publicity Secretary of the SARU SACOS Legends

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