‘Appointing Matfield too risky’

Six former players on whether Victor Matfield is ready to coach the Vodacom Bulls in Super Rugby and other possible candidates for the job. 

GAFFIE DU TOIT (former Springbok flyhalf)

‘I agree with what Nick Mallett said on SuperSport. Good players are not necessarily good coaches and appointing Victor will be too much of a risk, which the Bulls can ill-afford. Perhaps he has played a bigger coaching role behind the scenes than they are letting on and that's why there’s talk of him taking over. But I’m a firm believer that a coach should prove himself to the public first before jumping into a big role. Franco Smith, for example, made a huge impact as coach of Treviso in Italy and could easily have walked into the Cheetahs set-up, but he came back to coach Shimlas and proved his worth to the South African public in the Varsity Cup. One of the few people who made a successful transition from playing to coaching, at a high level, was Rassie Erasmus, but he's a technical genius and has an astute rugby brain. The Bulls won’t appoint anyone from outside the union, I think. So it might not be a bad idea to let [newly appointed Currie Cup coach] Nollis Marais take charge in Super Rugby, with Matfield and Fourie du Preez as his assistants.’

WERNER SWANEPOEL (former Springbok scrumhalf)

‘Who am I to argue with Nick Mallett? The man is spot on. Looking at the statistics, shifting from player to first-class coach is a tough task and the only person in South Africa to do so with aplomb was Rassie Erasmus. Experience and age are important aspects when you are a coach. Victor doesn’t have either. I doubt he can go from being one of the boys to being the boss of his mates in such a short time-frame. Let Victor and Fourie du Preez coach at age-group level for a few seasons. We are quick to oust coaches, without having a successor to fill the void. Don’t get me wrong, Frans Ludeke, like Naka Drotské, was past his sell-by date. The difference is the Cheetahs are lucky to have the services of Franco Smith with immediate effect. It’s scary to think four out of the five franchises will have new coaches next season and unfortunately South Africa doesn’t have the resources to fill those vacancies. If the Bulls, and the Stormers and Sharks for that matter, want to be competitive they should look at candidates abroad. I know John Plumtree has been linked with the Stormers job, but he’ll be a great coach for the Bulls. But I’m 99% certain Matfield and Du Preez will be appointed after the World Cup.’

ANDRÉ PRETORIUS (former Springbok flyhalf)

‘Nick Mallett has a valid point and he summed it up perfectly with the example of England’s Martin Johnson. A well-decorated player, who failed miserably as a coach. Despite all their success at Loftus, Victor and Fourie should be made to work their way through the ranks and earn their stripes. I remember Frans Ludeke started out at school level as head coach of Hoërskool Vorentoe, followed by a stint in varsity rugby where he coached me in the Koshuis league in 1997. Victor and Fourie are well-respected figures within the union and in world rugby in general, but that should not warrant them an easy passage to the most important job at the franchise. Perhaps they are the exception to the rule, but one of the junior coaches at Loftus might be a better option at this stage.’

KOBUS WIESE (former Springbok lock)

'I agree with Mallett, players should have to move through the ranks and earn their keep as coaches. If you look at New Zealand, for example, you don’t see players coaching top provincial or Super Rugby sides because they don’t have proper coaching experience. You really graft as a coach at U19 and U21 levels, and it’s important to go through that. Whoever gets the job as the Bulls Super Rugby coach has a massive task ahead of them, they need a disciplinarian, someone to take them back to basics. I think they missed out when [former Pumas coach] Jimmy Stonehouse went to Japan. He did amazing things with the Pumas, and would be a great candidate.' 

OLLIE LE ROUX (former Sprinbok prop)

'I think Mallett said what he did to protect the players. It’s tough to go straight into coaching from playing rugby, because if you fail early, what is there to do? I’m not generally against the idea, but it’s a better idea to earn your stripes especially considering the size of the Bulls union. I’m a huge Rassie Erasmus fan, I think he did exceptionally well at Western Province. They need to look at experience with hard, ex-players, guys like Gert Smal and Johan Ackermann too. Otherwise get in an experienced coach and let Matfield and Du Preez work under him for a few years.' 

GARRY PAGEL (former Springbok prop)

'I agree with Mallett, I think it’s very important to prove yourself as a coach. Starting at club level or an U20 side at one of the provincial unions would be a good place to start. I’d say someone like Pieter Rossouw would be suited to the job. He’s been around the side for a while, is familiar with how the union operates, and understands what they want to achieve.'

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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