DYLAN JACK and MARIETTE ADAMS debate whether coaches should have a performance clause included in their contracts.
Jack says no
In an ideal world, all local coaches, at least at a Super Rugby level, would have a performance clause included in their contracts.
It is something that is definitely needed, given the perennial underperformance of the franchises since the end of the Vodacom Bulls’ dynasty in 2011.
That is not to say it doesn’t happen at all in South African rugby. One of John Smit’s first moves as CEO of the Sharks was to negotiate the exit of then head coach John Plumtree in 2013. The long-serving Sharks mentor found out about his fate in the media, something Smit later admitted was ‘a colossal stuff-up’.
While it may be debatable whether the move to replace Plumtree worked or not, it is one such example of a CEO freshening up a coaching staff as part of a plan to get better results.
However, the financial realities that South African rugby unions face in the modern era make it difficult to negotiate a coach’s release if he or she are underperforming, resulting in such moves becoming fairly rare.
There is no way our franchises can be compared to the financial powerhouses that are the English Premier League football clubs, for example.
Chelsea can afford to hire and fire whoever they like, to the point that it has become synonymous with the club, because of who they have as their owner. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has pumped more money into Chelsea than our rugby franchises could even dream.
Going closer to home, Kaizer Chiefs are owned by Kaizer Motaung, while Orlando Pirates are chaired by multi-millionaire Dr Irvin Khoza. Top 14 clubs in France also have wealthy private owners.
These proclaimed owners simply do not exist in South African rugby. Like it or not, in the professional era of sports where local rugby is in a depression, financial security will always be placed above risky moves for success.
Adams says yes
One of the great traits of local coaches, past and present, is to overpromise and underdeliver. Before the start of every season and/or tournament, we hear how their teams will challenge for the title this year.
The fans lap up these promises and their impossible-to-kill hopes flutter to life.
To some extent the media buys into it too. Many column inches are dedicated to how well South Africa’s title hopefuls are shaping up for the season ahead. The local rugby landscape is presented draped in rainbow colours and all is well with the world.
Then reality comes crashing down by mid-season, disillusionment strikes and the championship hopes start to dwindle because the Stormers and Bulls may suffer humiliating defeats against the Sunwolves (2018) or the Jaguares will turn up at Loftus and Kings Park and take down the Bulls and Sharks in impressive fashion on consecutive weekends. Or a so-called abject Reds side can travel to Durban to chalk up their first victory there in 15 years.
‘The Sunwolves played with a lot more confidence than we did in the conditions,’ said Robbie Fleck after their loss to the Sunwolves.
‘It was ridiculous; the stupidity of the players,’ commented Pote Human after the Bulls capitulation against the Jaguars.
‘We were just incredibly poor today,’ Robert du Preez offered in the wake of the Sharks’ 51-17 thrashing at the hands Jaguares.
There’s a lot more where that came from. It’s a copy-and-paste routine. And that’s also where it ends. Our coaches are not held to account for their teams’ failings, season after season. They live a charmed life compared to their soccer counterparts. Soccer coaches at big clubs the world over are expected to perform or run the risk of being sacked; it comes with the territory.
Case in point would be Chelsea ruthlessly disposing of their greatest-ever manager when they fired Jose Mourinho (for a second time, mind you) a mere seven months after he delivered them their sixth Premier League title.
Closer to home, we’ve witnessed a number of coaches at Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Chippa United – to name a few – being stood down for failure of securing silverware. And in most instances these men who are shown the door are proven winners, but past results count for nothing in professional sport.
So just why are our rugby coaches given a free pass, especially since the majority of them do not even boast glittering CVs? Why are they free of censure from their bosses? Why do they never face the dreaded sack, when they should be?
A deal is brokered, a contract signed and no further questions asked. You either see out your contract, get an extension or you leave when offered a better gig elsewhere. But there’s seldom talk of a coach being in the firing line or having his contract terminated.
Because all local unions are in financial strife, coupled with the tough economic climate we live in, you could argue that unions can’t afford to go down that path, as they may not be in any position to finance a big buyout. But that is where administrators fail at their job.
A properly run business should be able to include a performance-based clause in every contract, and if a coach agrees with it, sign him up. If not, appoint someone who is willing to accept those performance-based terms. And when the targets stipulated in the contract are not met, severing ties with a coach would then be the next logical step.
As it stands, local teams continue to struggle and are falling further behind their New Zealand counterparts, while the men in charge refuse to be answerable for these shortcomings.
It’s time for change, or else local sides will continue to celebrate conference wins and be lauded for it. That is the definition of mediocrity.
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