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Ryan Vrede

SA coaching on brink of crisis


Stormers coach Allister Coetzee Stormers coach Allister Coetzee

The quality of the South African franchise coaches is in question to a degree it hasn't been for some time and it will have an adverse effect on the health of our rugby, writes RYAN VREDE.

When the Sharks are on a bye, like they were this past weekend, it is painful to watch the South African franchises play. The Gauteng derby was a turgid affair, with neither side possessing the skill, tactical refinement nor flair to convince me that they would be anything but also-rans this year.

The Stormers continue to be sterile on attack and it is clear another season of heartbreak for awaits for their faithful. Their weaknesses will be fully exposed and their woe will deepen in the first two matches of their upcoming tour – against the Crusaders and Chiefs.

In Melbourne, the Cheetahs looked like a pre-2013 version of themselves, and indeed have done so in varying degrees for all their matches in the current campaign. Gone was the defensive solidity and attacking precision that marked their impressive run last year. They'd lost the contest before half-time.

My deepest concern is the quality of the coaching these sides appear to be suffering under. I fully appreciate the limitations the coaches operate within, in terms of the personnel at their disposal. Certainly the lure of foreign contracts has increasingly seen some players who should be gracing Vodacom Cup fields competing weekly in Super Rugby. Each of the franchises in question have a number of men who fit that bill. Even so, the best coaches are able to tailor their game plan around the resources at their disposal and wring most of the potential out of their players.

Neither Frans Ludeke, Naka Drotské, Allister Coetzee nor Johan Ackermann appear to have the capacity to do this, which is dangerous for the health of South African rugby. Time restrictions mean Heyneke Meyer and his staff can't do extensive technical coaching when players are with the Springboks. The building and refinement of their technical skills base should happen at franchise level prior to that, as should their tactical awareness, execution and appreciation.

Exceptionally gifted players will continue to stand out despite their coaches' aptitude. It is the level of player below that that I'm concerned for. They really are the heartbeat of the South African Super Rugby challenge.

Some of the country's most experienced and astute coaches aren't involved in Super Rugby. Rassie Erasmus works for the South African Rugby Union and reports to Meyer, Nick Mallett is shaping opinions through his work as an in-studio analyst for Supersport when he should be shaping players, Brendan Venter's expertise is largely lost to the South African game and Alan Solomons has contributed more to the British game in the last decade in his work with Northampton and now Edinburgh than he has in his home country. Bubbling under that level is Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan, whose talent and sharp mind was massively influential in the Springboks' success in 2013.

White stands alone as a franchise coach of world-class calibre. The gulf in class between him and his counterparts is vast and deeply concerning.

Photo: Ashley Voltman/Gallo Images

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