South Africa coach Allister Coetzee says Italy defeat is his 'darkest moment'
By Paul Vinnell
Last Updated: 19/11/16 6:11pm
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee admitted Saturday's historic 20-18 defeat to Italy was the "darkest moment" of his career.
Coetzee's future in charge of the Springboks now appears to be hanging in the balance after their sixth defeat in seven matches.
They lost to England for the first time in 10 years last week, but their defeat in Florence was their first ever against the unfancied Azzurri, who were hammered 68-10 by New Zealand last weekend.
The Italians were so thrilled with victory that they played the national anthem at the end of the match while Coetzee could hardly have cut a more desolate figure as his players formed a mournful huddle on the pitch.
But he insisted he would not, or could not, quit his job: "That is out of my hands. But definitely, that is not Springboks standard. I'd say it's the darkest moment of my coaching career. The toughest.
"But I don't want to look at it emotionally now, because emotions are high."
Doubts over South Africa began to creep in following their historic loss to Japan at the 2015 World Cup in England.
Ahead of Saturday's game, Boks fans at home and abroad expressed fears of a "repeat of Brighton".
Coetzee added: "It's not good enough losing to Japan or Italy. No disrespect to Italy, they deserved their victory today.
"I can only congratulate on an outstanding performance from a team that has maybe lacked belief, and a young team without any pressure on them."
A statement from South African rugby chiefs suggested a knee-jerk reaction would not be made.
"The whole of South African rugby is extremely disappointed with this year's Springbok results and deeply worrying aspects of the performances. It has not been good enough and no one is pretending otherwise," SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said.
"We have a minimum target of winning three out of four test matches each season - which is better than the historical record - but we have not come close this season.
"It would be easy to lay the blame for that at one door or another and look for scapegoats but it would also be an oversimplification.
"All of us within South African rugby need to look at ourselves and ask what we could have done differently in aid of the Springbok cause.
"Those questions will be asked at the end of the season when we will undertake a full review of the year and what new interventions may be needed to turn things around."
South Africa end their northern hemisphere tour against Wales in Cardiff next week and Coetzee added: "There's a mountain to climb, and I suppose as a group we have to start digging and get ourselves out of that hole."