Coetzee needs a Christmas miracle to survive

Cape Town - After Saturday's 38-3 hiding in Dublin, the chances of Allister Coetzee still being Springbok coach in 2018 have taken a massive hit. 

It always had the potential to be a season-defining Test for the Boks, but their toothless display against a clinical Irish side completely obliterated any of the hope that had surrounded the improvement shown against the All Blacks at Newlands last month.  

The national side, once again, is on the ropes and this time it is hard to see Coetzee surviving. 

With Rassie Erasmus set to take over as Director of Rugby, that would leave the Boks with two years to get their house in order under a new boss in time for the 2019 World Cup.

It is still not clear exactly what Erasmus' involvement with the national side will look like but, at this stage, it doesn't really matter. 

The point is that, in Erasmus, the Boks will have a new leader at a time when they need it most. 

Coetzee said ahead of the Ireland game that he would touch base with Erasmus in the new year, but right now it seems unlikely that ‘Toetie’ will still have a job then. 

It simply hasn't worked. 

Let's be clear: when Coetzee was named Bok coach in April 2016, it was the right call. 

He may not have won Super Rugby, but out of the six South African franchise coaches at the time, he was by far the most experienced and most successful. 

Under his leadership, the Stormers were the best South African side in Super Rugby for three of five years. 

With Johan Ackermann yet to get the most out of his Lions and still relatively green at Super Rugby level, Coetzee was the logical appointment if SA Rugby wanted to stick with a local coach.

Suggestions at the time, from rugby writers and fans, that Coetzee had been given the job because of the colour of his skin were nothing short of disgusting. 

Coetzee was and is an experienced and proven coach; one who had worked closely with the 2007 group that won the World Cup under Jake White. He was next in line. 

For those racists, Saturday's result in Dublin would have been welcomed. 

Such people have wished failure upon the Boks for almost two years now. It is sad, but true.

But the reasons for the Bok demise since 2016 have nothing to do with colour. You would think that much is obvious, but for some reason it remains necessary to make that point.

After 22 Test matches under Coetzee, this Bok side still lacks an identity while there has not been any consistent improvement in all that time.

There have been glimpses of turned corners in 2017, but Saturday showed that the Boks are still very much a side at sea.

After the worst season in the history of Springbok rugby last year, there have been even more disappointments in 2017. 

The 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany was the worst result in Bok history, and Saturday's scoreline was the worst ever suffered by the Boks against Ireland. 

Coetzee's list of unwanted 'firsts' is growing all the time, and there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

If these results were coming as the Boks were implementing a new philosophy that we all understood or backing youth with 2019 in mind, they might be acceptable. If we could see that Coetzee was taking steps in a certain direction, we might be more patient. 

But, under Coetzee, this side appears to be going nowhere. 

The selections on Saturday did not suit the game Coetzee wanted to play. There was little to no creativity on attack, the execution of our kicks was poor, the aerial contesting was woeful despite that being an area Ireland were expected to target and, as Nick Mallett said afterwards, there was not one positive to take from the performance. 

We can back coaches, give them time, call in reinforcements and try and convince ourselves that we are on the right track, but at some point, enough has to be enough. 

That time, surely, has now come. 

Coetzee is a quality individual. He is respectful, intelligent, polite and incredibly passionate about his rugby. 

Unfortunately, there is no room for sentiment when it comes to performing in international sport and those qualities count for little when the Boks are continuously under-performing. 

Nine wins from 22 - that is Coetzee's record now. One win from 10 - his record away from home. 

Two years into the job, those numbers tell their own story. 

Should the players accept responsibility? Absolutely. But, ultimately, it is the job of the coach to get the most out of them. 

There are Tests against France, Italy and Wales to come on this tour. 

Defeat in Paris on Saturday will certainly be the final nail in the coffin. If it isn't, then nothing will be.

Nobody will be more gutted than Coetzee with the way things have turned out, and even he will know that only a Christmas miracle can save him now. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

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