Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has officially said 'sayonara' after six years as head coach and eight years in total at Western Province Rugby.
The 52-year-old will leave for Japan next Sunday as he embarks on a new phase in his decorated coaching career with Japanese club, Kobe Kobelco Steelers.
Under his watch the Stormers have played in one Super Rugby Final (2010), finished top of the overall table (2012) and collected three South African Conference titles.
There has also been success at Currie Cup level, with victories in 2012 and 2014, along with runners-up medals in 2010 and 2013, whilst some good young players have become Test Springboks under Coetzee’s tutelage.
Think of Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Duane Vermeulen, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh, with the likes of Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe – to name just a few – the next breed of Bok hopefuls.
“I don’t think one can be defined by losing a knockout match," Coetzee told the Stormers' official website.
"To me, it’s what your management and players think about you and how they play/work for you with a common goal in mind.
“I was invited to a team meeting with just the players on Tuesday and it was humbling to have guys like Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger thank me for my work here… to have Eben Etzebeth give me his Springbok jersey… then you know you’ve done a good job – to me, that defines you; to build relationships and to see how guys have grown as people and leaders on the field.
“Someone like Schalk and I have done 11 years together, with the Boks and here at Province, having had players like that play for me means a lot and it’s something I will take with me.”
Coetzee conceded that there had been some tough times along the way, but he added: “You can’t please everyone, but I’d like to think I’ve left a mark here in what is a diverse and special union and rugby region with an amazing support base, in The Faithful, all of whom have added to the special times my family and I have had in Cape Town.
“Most importantly, I would like to thank my players and my management – I was lucky that they always played for me; I never lost the changeroom, I’ve made some lasting relationships and I will never forget that.”
Looking ahead, to the next few years in Japan, Coetzee admitted to being excited at the next phase in his career but added that he would be back.
“It will be challenging and a bit of a culture shock for me,” said the outgoing Stormers boss, who also worked with the Springboks between 2004 and 2007, “but I’m excited and looking forward to it.
“This doesn’t mean it’s the end of me in South Africa… it certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t be coming back.”