Coetzee retained as Springboks coach despite big slump

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South Africa coach Allister Coetzee waits for the start of the international rugby union test match against Italy, in Florence, Italy.

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee waits for the start of the international rugby union test match against Italy, in Florence, Italy. (Photo: AP)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Allister Coetzee survived a review to keep his job as South Africa coach despite a dire first season in charge that saw the Springboks slump to a series of embarrassing losses.

SA Rugby "reaffirmed its support" for Coetzee, it said Monday, after reviewing the performance of him and his coaching team. It took the national federation three months to complete the review and announce that Coetzee would stay on.

Some members of Coetzee's backroom staff lost their jobs following South Africa's worst-ever season last year, though, with defense coach Chean Roux and backline coach Mzwandile Stick demoted to work with the Junior Springboks team.

SA Rugby gave Franco Smith, South Africa's 2016 Currie Cup-winning coach, a permanent place on the Springboks staff as an assistant coach. SA Rugby said it would name a new defense coach soon.

South Africa lost eight of its 12 tests last year, including a first loss at home to Ireland, a first loss in Argentina, a record 57-15 loss to New Zealand, and a first loss to Italy, the lowest point of a terrible year.

The Springboks, two-time world champions, had never lost so many tests in a season.

Coetzee's job was in the balance since SA Rugby ordered the review in November. He said South African rugby had systematic problems that needed to be addressed and were partly to blame for the team's sudden and dramatic slide.

"I am glad the review process is done and want to thank the (executive committee) for reaffirming their support in me as Springbok coach," Coetzee said in a statement released later Monday by SA Rugby. "We have no excuses for our poor performances of 2016 even though last year was an extremely challenging season. Our below par performances will never be acceptable and we will have to turn it around."

Coetzee, who was given a four-year contract at the start of last year, will now lead South Africa in a three-test home series against France in June, his first chance to win back the confidence of the many South African rugby followers who wanted him fired.

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