SA Rugby must strive to add a coach with a different way of thinking to the Springbok setup from next year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Can the Boks really rebound from a period of dire stagnation to be regarded as genuine contenders when the 2019 World Cup rolls around in less than two years? Sadly, all the current signs suggest not.
Allister Coetzee attempted to suggest throughout the final week of the Boks’ end-of-year tour that this team is heading in the right direction. Not even a loss against a severely weakened Welsh side did anything to alter this view point.
Unfortunately, transparency and a willingness to accept responsibility have proved to be just one of the key missing ingredients during Coetzee’s tenure, which is now once again under the spotlight as SA Rugby conducts its end-of-year reviews.
The Boks have dropped to sixth in the world rankings following the latest loss to Wales. Undoubtedly, there are more than a few legendary former Springboks who would be turning in their graves as a result of the Boks’ dire fall from grace over the last two years.
It calls for decisive action, and for perspectives to be realigned.
The fact remains that it would take something of a minor miracle for the Boks to be suitably overhauled and then adequately prepared to once again compete consistently with the best of the rest.
It’s frightening to think that the All Blacks, England, Australia, Ireland, Wales and even Scotland are now regarded as teams that would be expected to get the better of the Boks. On their day, Argentina and France would undoubtedly also fancy a crack at South Africa.
So where to from here then? I am still of the belief that South Africa possesses players with enough quality to be competing with the best.
The real question is whether they are being equipped to do so. However, it’s clear to see that at this moment, there are numerous players underperforming week after week, with many appearing to be suffering from a crisis of confidence and a clear lack of security in the team’s approach.
Where is a specialist skills coach? Why have the Boks not fully invested in a full-time kicking coach? How can the players be expected to perform accurately on defence when there have been four different coaches taking care of this key aspect of play over the last two years?
Something has to be done to address these problem areas, and it’s about time that SA Rugby was prepared to throw the cheque book at a coach who can freshen up the approach and ideas of the Springbok team.
Just this year, the Stormers reaped the rewards of employing kiwi skills coach Paul Feeney, who encouraged the players to back their natural abilities, and brought new ideas to the training field.
Stormers director of rugby Gert Smal has always been an advocate of sourcing unique coaching input from overseas, and one can only wonder just how successful the Cape franchise might have been if Eddie Jones had remained rooted under ‘table top mountain’ as he once called it.
South African rugby has a special place in the heart of Jones, and it boggles the mind that the Stormers were able to briefly secure his services when it should really have been SA Rugby begging him to be involved with the Boks. In the end, his desire to coach a reputable Test team took him to England.
It’s just as damning that some in SA Rugby have actively scuppered the opportunity for former All Blacks coach John Mitchell to be involved with our local game.
After Mitchell’s acrimonious exit from the Lions, it was no secret that he no longer felt welcome in South African rugby, and it was only after a period coaching the USA team that the Bulls finally saw the light and brought him back. This came some time after he had been jettisoned at the 11th hour after appearing in line to join the Stormers. Go figure.
It’s just as questionable why fellow New Zealander and former Sharks coach John Plumtree has never been roped in to add input at the Boks.
Plumtree was also controversially axed at the Sharks, but has since been part of a highly successfully Hurricanes setup, while further expanding his coaching horizons by recently working with Japan.
After his time spent becoming reacquainted with the successful systems of New Zealand rugby, I have no doubt whatsoever that he could add massive value to the Boks.
It now remains to be seen what new South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus might have up his sleeve, but one can only hope that there are plans in place to add some previously unheard voices to the Springboks coaching landscape.
Currently, our players are simply not being best equipped to make the most of their talents, while their skill levels are stagnating at Test level. It’s time for change, and a proactive coaching appointment must be made to expedite that process at whatever cost it takes.
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