Boks need clear direction

The decision to appoint Brendan Venter to facilitate next week’s SA Rugby coaching indaba is an excellent one, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

South African Rugby is in need of all the help it can get. Desperate times have called for desperate measures, and next week will see a two-day gathering between all of the key stakeholders in the game.

All six Super Rugby franchises have been invited to attend the two-day event in conjunction with Springbok coaching staff, members of the rugby department, and former Bok coaches and players.

SA Rugby has confirmed that playing trends will be one of the key matters on the agenda, while striving to achieve ‘alignment within SA Rugby’.

Throughout this year, the Boks have looked devoid of a clear plan. They’ve spoken of a desire to establish their own identity at the start of a new era, but there has been no clarity as to what they want this ‘identity’ to be.

There have been confusing contradictions in views that have been expressed to the public, while certain selections have also proven to be baffling.

As two cases in point, Allister Coetzee initially opted to back attack-minded flyhalf Elton Jantjies at the start of the Rugby Championship, but selected Morné Steyn as his replacement. It spoke to one style of play when Jantjies was in action, while another when Steyn came on to the park.

Similarly, where was the value in opting to utilise big Willem Alberts as an impact player upon his return to the Springbok camp? Surely he would have been better suited to a starting role as a much-needed ball-carrier before making way for the likes of a younger and more mobile Oupa Mohoje or Jaco Kriel?

There have been numerous such examples at a time when confusion has appeared to reign over the Bok camp this year. There is now a definite need for a decisive leader to add some outside perspective to begin clearing the muddy waters, and in this regard, Venter will have a key role to play at the indaba.

The former Sharks and Saracens director of rugby has not been involved in full-time hands-on coaching for some time, but continues to serve as an avid analyst of the game, while remaining very much up to speed with the latest trends and developments.

In a recent interview on SuperSport’s TMO rugby show, he made it abundantly clear as to what areas of the game he felt the Boks were lacking, and expressed his desire to help seek a solution to some of the evident problems. This included settling on a style of play and culture to take the team forward.

Venter is a man of conviction. As the facilitator of the indaba, with former Springbok team psychologist Pieter Kruger set to assist him, he will have to manage a number of egos, while trying to provide some clarity on the way forward.

It’s not an easy job, and there will be serious doubts over what can really be achieved in just two days, but Venter is certainly one of the top locally based rugby men who can provide invaluable input to address South African rugby’s widespread woes.

Ultimately, there is no magic wand, and as former Bok coach Jake White quite rightly pointed out this week, the issues run too deep to be completely addressed at a brief indaba. It is, though, one small step in the right direction.

In the aftermath of last Saturday’s historic defeat to the All Blacks, Coetzee intimated that he is in need of assistance and further input.

‘The indaba will be so important. There are areas of our game that have just not been good enough. We all have to address some focus areas where we feel we are lacking. I know what we need to fix, but I’d also like to know from other top coaches if they concur that these are the skill sets that we’re lacking or need to improve on, such as contact and aerial skills,’ he said.

Ultimately, what has to come out of next week’s indaba is a clear indication and direction as to what is the next step forward for South African and Springbok rugby.

Photo: BackpagePix

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