Some of the biggest names in South African rugby, including the influential Bath flanker Francois Louw, are wondering what the future holds for them at international level following the resignation of Heyneke Meyer as Springbok head coach.
Meyer was happy to select foreign-based players for the Test team and included several in his squad for the recent World Cup, but there is no guarantee that his successor will be similarly flexible.
Only last week, the South African Rugby Union president, Oregan Hoskins, argued publicly that Meyer should stay in post following the Boks’ third-place finish at the global tournament – a failure for a team with its eye on the main prize, but hardly a calamity of England magnitude. “We need to keep building, not breaking down,” Hoskins said. “We can’t start all over again every four years and lose so much of our intellectual property.”
But Meyer, who had initially been of a mind to stick with the task, confirmed that he would not seek a contract extension when his current deal expires next month. “As much as I believe I still have a lot to offer, the time has come for a change,” said the 48-year-old from Nelspruit. “I have put my heart and soul into the job and feel I can leave with my head held high.”
Allister Coetzee, who played senior rugby for Eastern Province in the 1990s, coached the Cape Town-based Stormers for five years from 2010 and was part of Jake White’s back-room staff when the Boks won the World Cup in 2007, is the early favourite to fill the vacancy. He is currently working in Japan with the Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers, who have two Springboks, the centre Jaque Fourie and the lock Andries Bekker, in their squad.
South Africa are the fifth leading country to lose their head coach since the World Cup. Stuart Lancaster resigned from his England role; Eddie Jones left Japan for a provincial job in Cape Town before being snapped up by Twickenham; Philippe Saint-André ended his troubled spell with France at the tournament’s quarter-final stage; Stephen Betham walked away from the international arena after a deeply disappointing campaign with Samoa.
On the English club front, Gloucester will do their fragile confidence a power of good – and possibly move into the top half of the Premiership table – if they beat Sale at Kingsholm on Friday night.
The West Countrymen have not scored a league try since the narrow home victory over Worcester at the back end of October and, while they are sticking with the same personnel who lost at Northampton a week ago, there is a switching of midfield roles between the captain Billy Twelvetrees and the Lions tourist James Hook, with the former moving out to inside centre and the latter shifting in to outside-half, if that makes sense.
Sale, bitterly disappointed after drawing with Newcastle last time out, have recalled the fast-improving Josh Beaumont at No 8, picked Nev Edwards on the wing and turned to the veteran Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer ahead of the Scottish No 9 Chris Cusiter.
Talking of the Scots, the Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist may miss the forthcoming Six Nations after suffering a setback in his recovery from the groin injury that cut short his tour of duty at the World Cup.
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