Springbok Coach Coetzee Competence OR Colour?

Allister Coetzee Vs Johan Ackermann Springbok Coach

Would Ackermann Have Made A Better Coach?

There is no denying Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is a brilliant rugby mind, his record with the Stormers speaks for itself (although there are 1 or 2 flaws regarding that record which we will touch on later.)

What we like about Allister Coetzee is the fact that he came through the system, just like Jake White, who before he lost his mind after winning the World Cup, was one of the best coaches South African rugby has ever seen.

Allister Coetzee Experience / Resume

  • Coetzee started his career at Vodacom Cup level with the EP Kings in 1996.
  • After impressing with EP he got promoted to the Sharks assistant coach in 2000.
  • Things arguably did not work out to well with the Sharks and he then took on the coaching role of the South African U/23 team.
  • After impressing with the Senior Baby Boks, Coetzee got a call-up to the Springboks where he served as assistant coach under the successful Jake White regime and it is there where Coetzee’s career really took off.
  • After Jake White decided not to renew his contract after his World Cup win in 2007, or rather rugby administrators told him not to renew his contract, since they wanted a coach of colour, Pieter “snore” Devilries. Coetzee then moved to the Stormers in 2008 and the rest was history.
  • Coetzee was the head coach of the Stormers for 5-years between 2010 and 2015.

Allister Coetzee Super Rugby Record

Coetzee’s record with the Stormers is rather impressive, the Stormers played 93 games under the Coetzee regime and won 61 one of those, losing 32, resulting in an impressive winning percentage of 66%.

Arguably Coetzee’s winning record could probably have been closer to 70% had the Stormers not struggled early on, at the start of the Coetzee regime, adopting to Allister Coetzee’s new game plan.

 Allister Coetzee Playing Style

The Stormers under the Coetzee regime consistently topped the Super Rugby table and bagged a number of conference titles. The Stormers also managed to make a number of playoff games under the Allister Coetzee regime however, they never managed to win a single crunch playoff game under the Coetzee regime, and there is a clear reason for that.

The Stormers under Coetzee were renowned for two things, a stellar, near unbreakable defence, and being one of the most boring teams in the tournament, struggling to score more than 1 try per match.

It can be argued that the Stormers failed to advance to Super Rugby title champions due to their inability to score points. History has taught us that you can NOT win matches just on defence, and when the playoff games came, The Stormers inability to score points and the opposition analysis of the Stormers defensive plan meant that the Stormers, as impressive winning record as they had, got knocked out when it became crunch time.

Similarities between the Stormers & Springboks between 2004 -2007

Thinking back to the Jake White era between, 2004-2007, the Springboks game plan was very much the same as the Stormers game plan was under Allister Coetzee. The World Cup winning Springboks of 2007 pride themselves on their defence and stellar goal kicking.

This was an era before the rugby evolution started, and set pieces, forcing penalties, drop goals and kicking for territories were in the order of the day.

The Rugby Evolution – A Very Brief History

Rightfully the IRB (World Rugby Organization) stepped in, made some rule changes, and with the All Blacks setting the example and taking the lead of the rugby evolution, rugby experienced a shakeup at the end of the decade with ball retention, offloading and a faster more “risky style of play” became more and more popular.

No longer could defence alone win games, teams were now willing to take more risks, naturally giving up more points in the process but also scoring more points due to the faster more free flowing nature rugby took on. Think the Chiefs Super Rugby Team during 2013-2014 as an example. For the first time in many years rugby again became exciting and was no longer a kicking contest.

The South African Problem

As we moved on with the rugby revolution, South African teams started to struggle to adapt and they are still struggling to this day.


The Stormers under Allister Coetzee continued with their defensive game plan, with much criticism from the public. This lead to them finishing 7th on the Super Rugby log in 2013 and 11th in 2014, although they made the playoffs in 2015 but when crunch time came they again lost to the Brumbies.

Currently, in 2016 as of the time of writing, the Stormers are still struggling to play a more expansive attacking game, with forced offloads and handling errors often resulting in them getting driven backwards on attack.


The Bulls is another great example of how the South African teams are struggling to adapt to the rugby revolution, the Bulls despite much criticism are continuing with their 10-man game plan and it is not bringing much success to them


The Springboks under Heineken Meyer tried to adapt and copy their New-Zealand rivals at times they showed potential but could never really be labelled as an attacking team, and received much criticism from the public.

Allister Coetzee The Wrong Man For The Job?

As mentioned in the start of this post we have loads of respect for Allister Coetzee and what he managed to do with the Stormers is impressive. However Allister Coetzee can present a problem as the new Springbok coach because:

  • Coetzee has shown no signs of playing an attacking orientated game
  • All teams where Allister Coetzee has been involved in were all about defense.
  • Generally, the teams Coetzee have coached in the past have struggled to score points.

We believe the Springboks will take the same direction under Coetzee as they did with Jake White, highly defensive focused but offering little on attack. Needless to say, this is going to be a huge problem since rugby has evolved in such a way that the old saying –“The best offense is a good defence” carries no more weight. We are generally concerned over the Springbok backline and how they will perform under Allister Coetzee.

How Johan Ackermann transformed the Lions

We mentioned above that South African teams have struggled to adapt to the rugby revolution, playing at a faster pace and higher skill level. However, there is one team who is an exception to the above, the Lions!

Before Johan Ackermann stepped in the Lions had a dreadful record winning 1 maybe 2 games during the entire Super Rugby season if they were lucky. So bad was the Lions that they got relegated for the Southern Kings. However, in a promotion-relegation game, the Lions managed to win the Southern Kings and regained their Super Rugby status.

With the Lions now back in Super Rugby in stepped Johan Ackermann, a magician, a coach extraordinaire. Ackermann had no class players (Springboks), or experienced players, furthermore, he had very limited resources at his disposal, when he took over as Lions coach.

However despite the above Ackermann managed to rebuild the Lions, restoring respect to the once proud union.

Under Johan Ackermann, the Lions won 7 out of 16 games in his first tenure as coach in 2014 the most games they have ever won since 2001! In 2015, the Lions won 9 out of 16 games the most Super Rugby matches they have ever won since their inception into Super Rugby!

Currently, in 2016, the Lions have played 9 matches this far winning 6 of them and sitting comfortably on top of their conference, all indications are that the Lions will make the playoffs this year.

Johan Ackermann – Gameplan & Style of Play

Despite the impressive turnaround which the Lions are currently boasting, it is their playing style which caught the attention of both the South African rugby community and the international community.

The Lions are playing a fast, attacking game, and swinging the ball wide whenever they get the opportunity while making some superb offloads in a tackle situation.

To proof just how good the Lions are on attack, here are some statistics:

  • They are currently 4th in Super Rugby for number of tries scored.
  • Leading South African team for clean breaks!
  • Ranked 2nd of all teams for amount of carries per match, with a whopping 1053 in 9 matches!
  • 4th ranked team, and 1st ranked South African team in terms of meters made per match, more proof of an excellent attacking game plan!
  • However, it is not just attack where the Lions standout in terms of defence success they are very close to the Stormers, who are considered the best South African defensive team. The Lions have an 83.2% tackle success rate compared to the Stormers 85.4% success rate.

Why Was Allister Coetzee Chosen As Springbok Coach and Not Johan Ackermann?

Considering Allister Coetzee’s record, and comparing the stats of Johan Ackermann above, while also taking into consideration the rugby revolution / evolution placing more emphasis on attack, we can’t help to ask ourself the question was Johan Ackermann not the better candidate?

Johan Ackermann is by far the best attacking orientated coach in South Africa and one of the best in the world!

Ackermann has a superb rugby brain, With the Lions, he managed to turn a team of “no names” into Springboks and fierce Super Rugby contenders.

Considering the way the Lions play under Ackermann, and the way he managed to transform the Lions with basically no class players or resources imagine what he could have done with the Springboks?

Allister Coetzee on the other hand has the experience and has a record of creating a superb defensive structure, but that is where it stop.

We can’t help to ask the question was Allister Coetzee’s appointment as Springbok coach purely on merit or did quotas and race give him an additional advantage in terms of the job application?

We are not saying Coetzee is bad, we are just saying Ackermann would have made a much better coach. Race or Merit?

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