South African rugby begins major shake-up after after dramatic drop

South Africa’s rugby union announced major changes to the structure of the game in the country on Friday, but resisted the immediate temptation to dismiss embattled coach Allister Coetzee.

SA Rugby’s all-powerful General Council met on Friday to push through a raft of constitutional changes, but Coetzee’s future remained uncertain after the team suffered the worst year in their history by losing eight of their 12 tests.

Coetzee will provide a report to SA Rugby’s High Performance Committee on Tuesday, which will then make a recommendation to the organisation’s Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee has taken over from the General Council as the decision-makers at SA Rugby and will select future Bok coaches in another of the constitutional changes announced on Friday.

This takes the power of coach selection out of the hands of the 15 individual unions in the country and into SA Rugby’s inner sanctum, headed by president Mark Alexander.

Other constitutional changes have been pushed through that SA Rugby hope will provide a more solid platform from which to select future Bok squads.

Squad selection will no longer be made by committee and instead a single convenor will work with the coach.

In a bid to bring more money and business expertise into the game, a 74 percent shareholding in unions’ commercial arms by private equity partners will now be permitted.

The country has seen a flood of players leave for lucrative contracts in Europe and Japan in recent years as unions are unable to offer competitive salary packages, significantly weakening the domestic player pool and lowering the competitiveness of teams.

“The Council decided to open the door for greater private equity investment in rugby and greater business involvement to help recapitalise the game,” Alexander said.

“We make no secret of the fact that in these tough economic times the rugby business is taking the same strain that every other South African business is facing. There is a battle to find and retain sponsors and supporters, and we could not continue to do business in the same way.

“The other changes bring us more in line with modern business practice by increasing independent representation and removing some of the anachronisms of the amateur era such as a selection committee and vice president.”

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