It was not to be for the DHL Stormers and long-time coach Allister Coetzee, as they were knocked out of 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby contention on Saturday night at DHL Newlands.
The DHL Stormers went down 19-39 to the Brumbies, from Australia, meaning that Coetzee’s time, after six years in charge – in a total of eight years with the team – had come to an end.
Coetzee will join the Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers in Japan; a new adventure for the 52-year-old who has been South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby coach in the past five seasons, which has also seen him guide DHL Western Province to two Absa Currie Cup victories.
“I am pleased with my mission, maybe not the way I wanted to end but playing and winning two Absa Currie Cup titles and three SA Conference trophies, being the best South African side and being the best transformed side, to me that is my job done and I am really happy with that,” said Coetzee on Saturday night.
“It is not just transformation in terms of colour, but it is transformation in how Frans Malherbe becomes a leader, and how Juan de Jongh becomes a leader.
“It is not just about skin colour, but if you look at the dynamics of the side and you go to Johannesburg and black guy tells me that this is his team that he supports, then I know that it is the right job that I have done.
“I go with no regrets, I go away very pleased that we have won, we transformed and we were sustainable.
“We didn’t win the big one in Super Rugby yet, I will leave that to the next guy, I have done the groundwork,” he said.
Looking back at Saturday night’s match, against the Brumbies, Coetzee admitted to the www.iamastormer.com website: “One has got to take this on the chin, move on and give credit to a Brumbies side that were just better on the day in most departments.
“There are no excuses to be made, they are deserved winners.
“Obviously we didn’t help ourselves with unforced errors, yet again the line-out didn’t function well. I think we could have done better with our kicking game which wasn’t all that good.
“They took their chances, every chance they created they converted. We had so many chances as well which we didn’t convert.
“My plea to the guys beforehand was to go all the way,” added Coetzee.
“We have had enough chances to get to play-offs now, we must win it going forward. Maybe with the next coach because I won’t be here, but they are definitely good enough to go all the way.
“We won the Absa Currie Cup in 2014 and we won the SA Conference (title) this year, so if there is any doubt about who is the best team in South Africa then I don’t know what else we need to do.
“The focus must be shifted to the next level, we have got depth now we need to keep this group of players together for the next two seasons and then we can contest for the Super Rugby trophy.”
Coetzee, meanwhile, had a final word of thanks for the amazing supporters of DHL Newlands, The Faithful, who have always had a great relationship with their coach.
“To our home crowd, our Faithful. I would fail in my duty if I didn’t thank and commend them,” he said.
“You couldn’t ask for a better support base and I am going to miss that. You always know you’re playing in front of a supportive and intelligent crowd and I want to thank them for everything these past six years.
“I will miss the DHL Newlands crowd, The Faithful, and I want to pay tribute to them and thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
DHL Stormers skipper Juan de Jongh, in turn, paid tribute to his coach, saying: “I was lucky enough to start out here in 2009 with Allister in charge.
“It’s been a great journey and I want to thank Allister, all the management… they always worked so hard to make things easier for us on the field.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Allister – both on and off the field, in rugby and as a human being – and, on behalf of the players, I want to thank him very much for everything over the past six years.”