The Kings’ coaching saga has highlighted the struggle for black coaches to get a fair crack at head coaching and other technical positions in South African rugby, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Kings should be embarrassed about how their search for a new coach is panning out. In particular, how they seem to be treating Peter de Villiers’ application to become the new coaching boss at the franchise.
They seem to be pulling out all the stops for him not to get the job. Over the last week there has been a big hoo-hah about his qualifications, which forced the former Springbok boss to post his qualifications and an affidavit from Oregan Hoskins on social media.
But this isn’t the first time De Villiers has been on the receiving end of such treatment in his country after he parted ways with the Boks after the 2011 World Cup.
Despite his record with the Springboks, which includes three successive wins over the All Blacks, a Tri-Nations title and series victory over the British & Irish Lions, he hasn’t been able to get a top job in this country.
De Villiers also has a great record with the junior national teams, in addition to doing a decent job during his time with the Valke. But yet he hasn’t coached in the Currie Cup or Vodacom Super Rugby after that World Cup quarter-final against Australia, which will be remembered for referee Bryce Lawrence’s many blunders.
Why? Why has one of the most successful Springbok coaches in the history of rugby in this country not been able to land a proper rugby job?
Is it because his media conferences sometimes bordered on the bizarre? Is it because of his voice? Is he too short? Does his moustache intimidate other guys who can’t boast the same thick shadow under their nostrils?
Because, surely, it can’t be rugby related? How can a man with his experience not be able to find a job in this country? This after his former assistants coaches Gary Gold and Dick Muir have been employed in South Africa, while many other mediocre coaches have also come and gone.
The Kings shouldn’t even be having a process, because De Villiers is the best candidate for the job. But it seems they are hell-bent on keeping him out. I won’t be surprised if they next add a BA in Horticultural Sciences as a requirement for the job.
However, the struggle to sustain a coaching career in rugby is not only limited to De Villiers. Many other black coaches are struggling to get top jobs in South African rugby.
According to an article in the Mail & Guardian, which was published in February, there were only three black coaches involved in Super Rugby this year. Only Ricardo Laubscher (Sharks assistant coach), Joey Mongalo (Lions assistant coach) and Hayden Groepes (Vodacom Bulls skills and kicking coach) featured, while the Stormers had an all-white management team during their 2019 campaign.
In 2008, the Springboks, Springbok Sevens and Junior Boks had black coaches at the helm. But 11 years later, the Springboks, the Blitzboks, Junior Boks, all four Super Rugby teams, the Cheetahs in the Pro14 and all the Currie Cup Premier division teams are all being coached by white men.
Deon Davids coached the Kings in the Pro 14 over the last few years with minimal success and even less resources, while he and Allister Coetzee have been the only black coaches who have coached in Super Rugby.
Davids was recently shown the door at the Kings, while Coetzee’s tenure as Springbok coach ended after two years, with some suggesting that he didn’t quite get the full backing of his bosses, especially with all the player resources now available to current boss Rassie Erasmus.
Coetzee, though, also made some terrible mistakes during his tenure, and it would be naughty to pin his failure as Springbok coach squarely on the shoulders of his former employers.
But there is a concern that black coaches aren’t being treated fairly, especially when it comes to senior jobs.
De Villiers deserves a crack at the Kings job, not because of the colour of his skin, but because of his coaching pedigree. It’s the same with other black coaches such as Varsity Cup-winning mentor Jonathan Mokuena, who was recently overlooked for the Cheetahs head coach position.
Paul Treu, who complained about racial discrimination at the Stormers in 2018, holds the same high-performance qualification as England’s director of cricket Ashley Giles, but yet the notion of him becoming the Stormers’ director of coaching led to media reports of sponsors threatening to pull out of the union.
‘Black coaches are giving up, because it’s a hopeless situation. We are losing faith in the system and refuse to be used as tokens and window dressing,’ one of the country’s black rugby coaches told SA Rugbymag.co.za.
‘Only white coaches are being seen as competent and knowledgeable. The gatekeepers have a divide-and-conquer system, which makes people fearful to fight for more. No one holds the gatekeepers to account for the lack or progress in coaching or important administrative departments.
‘Even more worrying, with U19 rugby falling away and potentially the SuperSport Challenge in a few years, black coaches will be fighting for crumbs and playing assistants for life. Never mind getting a seat at the table, we are not even getting through the door.’
SA Rugby has done a decent job in levelling the playing fields on the pitch, with black players making use of their opportunities to show that they are more than ‘targets’ or ‘quotas’.
The same efforts should be made when it comes to coaching. It should start with the Kings who need to appoint the best man for the job: Peter de Villiers.
Photo: Mario van de Wall