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This annus may be even more horribilis for SA rugb

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    Posted: 09-Jan-2017 at 9:12am

After a difficult 2016, things can't get any worse for South African rugby in 2017 - or could they?

Assuming that, because 2016 was so poor the only way for the Springboks in particular, and South African rugby in general, is up, is dangerous.

If SA Rugby doesn't actively engage and face its problems, things could become worse - as hard as that is to believe after the Boks lost a record eight Tests last year.

On the upside, the governing body has recognised the need to tackle issues but whether it will make the tough choices remains to be seen.

One of the biggest decisions facing SA Rugby this year is whether to retain the floundering Allister Coetzee as Bok coach.

Coetzee has three years left on his contract and would need to be paid out - some estimates suggest as much as R13-million - but what would the cost be to rugby if the Boks endured another torrid season in 2017?

Already the national team cannot find a blue-chip sponsor and another season with a 33% winning ratio won't have big corporates lining up at the door.

Of course, replacing Coetzee as Bok coach won't automatically guarantee success, but not replacing him after a year in which he demonstrated no obvious plan to turn the situation around, would guarantee more failure.

Sources suggest the government is putting pressure on SA Rugby to retain Coetzee for another season.

Coetzee is responsible for the Boks' situation and if SA Rugby believes he cannot rectify it they have to sack him.

At Super rugby level the Southern Kings will continue to be funded by SA Rugby - another situation that cannot continue indefinitely.

The Junior Springboks have also struggled for the past two seasons with mediocre performances under former coach Dawie Theron, and a new coach has yet to be appointed.

SA Rugby's constitutional changes, which were agreed to last month, will give a new director more autonomy to control the technical aspects of the sport at a micro level.

By eliminating the general council (unions) from key decisions at national level, a strong high-performance director could have a big impact on strategic development.

A new policy on the eligibility of overseas-based Boks is high on the agenda this year and is set to be finalised by April, while a decision on a "new" Currie Cup format should also be finalised by then.

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