Who will be the next Springbok Coach

Written by leon. Posted in Opinion

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Published on November 14, 2011 with No Comments

Last time we had a look at who could be taking over from John Smit as captain of the Springboks. There is however another vacancy opening up at the Springboks, with coach Peter de Villiers’ contract running out at the end of the year. In this post we’ll have a look at some of the candidates that have been suggested and make a few predictions.

First up let’s look at the qualities a Springbok coach should possess:

  • He should have a very good rugby brain. The modern game is one that changes almost on a yearly basis. The man in charge of one of the best teams in the world needs to be the smartest guy out there. Traditionally the Australians and All Blacks have out smarted the Boks that have played “dumb” hard rugby. It’s been working in general but we can’t go on lacking tactically against other teams any longer.
  • He needs good people skills. The Springbok coach doesn’t only have to manage his group of players but also his team coaching assistants. Gone are the days that one person can run the whole show. The Springbok coach needs to first appoint a competent team to support him and then make it all gel together. He also needs the players to respect him and manage the relationships within the team with a mix of experience and young blood.
  • On that point, he needs an eye for new talent and be willing to experiment with new guys coming through to build that much needed experience.
  • He needs to be able to play the politics and be a good communicator. There will always be a media and there will always be politics in SA sport. If you can’t deal with that sadly you can’t even start thinking of the Springbok job.

Stating these points, let’s look at some of the contenders. Almost everyone on the list has stated that they currently have other commitments and aren’t interested in the Springbok job. I’m going to ignore that, because I think most of them are just playing it cool for the media.

Peter de Villiers. The nightmare that just doesn’t want to go away. Apparently he’ll be reapplying for his old job so let’s start here. I don’t think he has a chance in hell to get reappointed except if the entire SARU has a huge brain fart and wants the entire rugby public to commit suicide. He probably had the most talented group of players of a generation at his disposal and managed to deliver an average record. The Boks managed the success they did in the past four years despite of Peter de Villiers, not because of him. OK I’m leaving that there.

Heyneke Meyer. He is the former coach of the Bulls and Leiscter and currently director of Rugby at the Bulls. Should’ve gotten the job 4 years ago but his skin was a bit pale and his accent to Afrikaans. Think he probably harbours some resentment because of what happened and might genuinely not be interested anymore. Rugby wise he must be one of the top candidates. Every team he has touched has turned to gold and has shown at the Bulls he can spot talent from a mile away. He can handle the media but the extra pressure from the Bok job might just be a little too much. But heck no one could be worse than de Villiers was.

Alistair Coetzee. He was Jake White’s assistant at the 2007 World Cup and has been coaching at the Stormers/WP ever since. Has shown he is a competent coach with the Stormers performing good constantly. However, with a team full of Springboks the trophy cabinet at Newlands has remained bare and it must ask questions of the coach’s ability. Politically he’ll be a good choice and he’ll be a million times better than de Villiers, but competent just isn’t good enough. Before he doesn’t show some results he can’t be considered for the Boks.

Rassie Erasmus. Former Springbok, coach of Free State and Western Province and now director of Rugby at Western Province. He also had a stint as “technical advisor” for the Boks just before the World Cup. When it comes to Rugby and tactics this man probably only has his equal in Heyneke Meyer in South Africa. It showed with improved tactical performances from the Boks after the Tri-Nations. He has however also been found lacking with that bare trophy cabinet in Newlands that must raise some questions. He might be best suited to an assistant technical role and not to be the man in charge.

John Mitchel and John Plumtree. The two New Zealand born coaches in charge of the South African franchises the Lions and the Sharks. Both men will be controversial appointments. We’ve never had a foreigner take charge of the national team. The advantage of this will be that they might be a little immune to all the politics involved and they might just get on with the actual rugby. Mitchell has done wonders at the Lions to win the Currie Cup without any real “stars” in his team. He was however quite ordinary coaching the Force previously and couldn’t get any significant results even with the financial backing. Plumtree also has had mixed success with the Sharks but has also failed at Super Rugby level. This might point that good as they are, they are still not the answer to all that is lacking in SA rugby.

Jake White and Nick Mallet. Two ex Bok coaches that have also been thrown into the mix. Look, they have been two of the most successful Bok coaches but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to go back to a previous coach. Both of them has shown there worth and will probably do a very good job taking over again. They have the experience   and won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Mallet has done wonders in Italy and White has recently been contracted with the Brumbies after publically criticising everyone at his former employer for the past four years. It still just feels like a step in the wrong direction. Maybe get them on as advisors/selectors as well, if their egos could handle it.

There might be a few others in the mix like Paul Treu that has had success with the 7’s Boks, Naka Drotske from the Cheetahs and even someone like Eddie Jones that has two World Cup winner’s medals. I think however the job should go to Heyneke Meyer who really deserves it. I also think he is down to earth enough to surround himself with a good, strong assistance team to fill the gaps where he himself might be lacking. However, we’ll have to see if he even wants the job and whether SA Rugby will have the sense to make the “rugby decision” instead of the political one like last time.

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