Bok files: All the 'gory' details

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 09:30
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INSIDE THE SARU BOARDROOM: Jan de Koning delves into Springbok coach Allister Coetzee's  contemptuous letter to Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union.

It is common knowledge that Coetzee, bitter and angered by what he feels was a betrayal by his employers, produced a sharp-tongued 19-page condemnation of his treatment at the hands of his SARU bosses.

He made it clear he feels that he was "always" going to be replaced by Johan Erasmus, affectionately know as Rassie, as the Bok coach.

In his mind, he was used as a pawn by SARU to appease their political masters.

He goes as far as to say that he is better qualified than Erasmus to coach the Boks.

Coetzee set out to expose what he feels - and many others suspect - is the underhanded dealings of SARU's inner sanctum.

However, the acidulous missive goes much further, as Coetzee openly plays the race card.

Before starting to work on this article I afforded SARU (including Roux) the opportunity to respond to the letter.

A spokesman returned a one-sentence reply: "As a matter of principle SA Rugby does not comment on Employer-Employee matters."

Having read through all 19 pages several times, I feel that Coetzee has shot himself in the foot.

However, there is no doubt that he also opened a can of worms SARU would much rather have left hidden in a dark corner of a seldom visited shelve.

From the outset, he makes it clear that he is not going to go away quietly and that he will fight to the bitter end - willing to drag SARU through yet another court drama.

The opening line sets the tone: "I choose to write this letter in English, notwithstanding the fact that our previous informal engagements were in Afrikaans. I also choose to be formal in this letter for reasons which will become apparent later hereunder."

Coetzee speaks of an email dated 13 January 2018, Roux's reply on 16 January 2018 and the "informal" meeting held between then at Cape Town on Thursday, 18 January 2018.

This INFORMAL meeting has become the basis for Coetzee's verbal tirade.

"In the context of the engagements between you and I prior to the aforesaid meeting, it was made plain to me that the meeting would deal with the anticipated performance review and its procedures as contemplated by my employment contract.

"Instead, the meeting was used as a platform to inform me of SARU's decision that it intends to, inter alia, terminate my contract of employment with immediate effect.

"You informed me that the decision was taken by Mark Alexander (the President of SARU), Francois Davids (the Deputy President) and James Stoffberg (the vice-president) and mandated you as the CEO of SARU to inform me of the decision.

"You further informed me that a further aspect of the decision is that my services will be terminated regardless of the outcome of the anticipated performance review, as contemplated by my employment contract, and, should I wish to remain in SARU's employment, I will be reduced to a ceremonial coach, and further that Johan Erasmus has already been employed to replace me and is already performing the duties of the Springbok Coach.

"Should I be reduced to the position of a ceremonial coach I would have to face the indignity of reporting to Rassie."

Coetzee said he would not allow elements in SARU to wilfully destroy him and render unemployable, as was done with former Bok coach Peter De Villiers.

Coetzee made it clear that he feels SARU's conduct has infringed on his rights to dignity, equality and fair labour practices enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

"This is particularly so in light of the fact that it is common cause within SARU that it was always the intention to replace Heyneke Meyer with Rassie but SARU wanted to avoid any controversy based on race emanating from such appointment," Coetzee said.

"In order to avoid the controversy a stratagem has been devised to use me, as a person of colour, to mask the ultimate aim by offering me the Springbok coaching position, but that I would be starved of the necessary resources which would enable me to satisfactorily perform my duties.

This would ultimately lead to my early exit and the eventual appointment of Rassie."

Coetzee went on to list a number of issues he feels demonstrates the different treatment afforded to him when compared to Meyer.

Coetzee was also not shy to use apartheid and play the race card.

"The mischief which apartheid created in the context of rugby is recognised by SARU in its Transformation Charter.

"The stratagem devised by SARU, as explained aforesaid, offends the Transformation Charter of SARU. Firstly, it is distasteful, to say the least, to use me, as a black South African, as a pawn in a manner which can only be described as deeply reprehensible.

"The stratagem is clearly, in my view, unconstitutional because it infringes my right to dignity and equality. It also aims to defeat, in an unconstitutional manner, the ideals and values entrenched in the Constitution.

"The fact that those who mandated you to inform me of SARU's decision are persons of colour makes it even more regrettable.

"Notwithstanding SARU's clear commitment to adhere to its Transformation Charter and its stated intention to eradicate discrimination on any grounds, Rassie's appointment, with respect, does not give effect to transformation of rugby in general."


He goes on to attack Roux in regards to the CEO's "conduct" at the meeting of 18 January.

"Your conduct deeply offends my rights and perpetuates the mischief which the Constitution seeks to correct (i.e. the apartheid policy and legislation).

"It is astonishing that SARU had mandated you to inform me that they plan to reduce me to a ceremonial coach who must answer to Rassie who, with respect is a lesser qualified coach.

"This conduct by SARU is unbecoming and has infringed upon my right to dignity, equality and fair labour practices.

"This conduct is tantamount to 'fronting". This goes against my moral fibre and grain. It is also unconstitutional. I will in no uncertain terms be exploited in this manner and reduced to a ceremonial coach and betray the values and ideals enshrined in our Constitution which was not easily achieved and was realised through the efforts of those who came before me. '

"My submissions in this regard are made with the view of correcting the mischief created by apartheid for the benefit of future generations. SARU's decision perpetuates the injustices of the past."

"The decision appears to be in stark contradiction to the report of SARU's President contained in the 2016 annual report. In the President's report, the performance of the Springboks, according to the President, could not simply be laid at the door of the Springbok management. The relevant provisions of the President's report provide thus:

Coetzee also refers to a 2016 report by SARU President Mark Alexander, which appears to absolve from blame in the Springboks' annus horribilis that was 2016 - the worst year in the team's history - with a record eight defeats in 12 matches.

"Those issues could not simply be laid at the door of the Springbok management," the President's 2016 report said.

Coetzee pointed to a series of coaching indabas between the national management and franchise coaches, which he felt contributed to an improved 2017.

"We have prepared a coaching blueprint capturing a shared understanding on a South African approach to the different phases of the game as well as the minimum conditioning standards - an issue that has been repeatedly highlighted as a concern for national coaches over many years," Coetzee said.

"The Springboks fared better in the last season, i.e. the 2017 season, than the 2016 season. The obvious rhetorical question to be asked is what has changed between the two seasons?

"In my view, the only thing that has changed is that the unlawful stratagem to appoint Rassie has been implemented and expedited."

"It is apparent to me now that my appointment as the Springbok coach was made with an ulterior motive resulting in me being duped into leaving my employment in Japan.

"To add insult to injury the call from SARU was made in circumstances where I had to choose between my personal well-being and the need to serve my country as the head coach of the Springboks (only to be later told that I will be a ceremonial coach).

"I wish to reiterate and record that I was and am still being treated fundamentally and prejudicially differently from Meyer and Jake White. This has been conveyed to yourself [Roux] on several occasions for which I have received no support on."

Coetzee goes on to say that "SARU made it plain that the performance review process is a ruse".

"Unfortunately, I am contractually bound to participate in the performance review process, the outcome of which is irrelevant.

"It is apparent that in implementing the stratagem I am being used as cannon fodder."

He also took aim at SARU for allowing Erasmus to recruit Bok coaching staff without consulting him first.

"Clause 5.4.1 of my employment contract states that it is essential for the Coach and the Management Team and Support Team to be able to work closely together on a personal and professional level, the following shall be appointed by and contracted to SARU 'in consultation with COETZEE', who will have the decisive decision.

"I have never been approached or consulted. Unless Rassie has been recruiting personnel for the rugby department and will not form part of the ancillary personnel and management, such steps taken are in breach of my contract of employment. I must be consulted and will have the decisive vote in who must be appointed as part of the Springbok Management.

"Having regard to the aforesaid, the appointment of Jacques Nienaber and secondment of Dr Warren Adams constitutes a material breach of my contract of employment. I fail to understand how personnel can be appointed and removed without my knowledge as Head Coach. Clause 5.4.1 clearly sets out my role in the appointment and it is incorrect to state that Rassie can recruit and appoint any personnel without me knowing."

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com