• ‘Coaching mess adds to SA’s problems’

    What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

    Over the past two weeks, the English press have sought to understand SA Rugby’s transformation policies as well as its reasons for a national coaching indaba (which was held last month).

    In today’s edition of The Times of London, chief rugby correspondent Owen Slot has questioned the ‘over-promotion’ of Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick.

    ‘Coaching mess adds to problems for South Africa,’ reads the title of this piece. Slot wastes no time in getting to the point. The first paragraph reads:

    ‘For an insight into how and why the South Africa team coming to Twickenham this weekend are not quite the high and mighty Springboks of long-established tradition, try this: their attack coach, Mzwandile Stick, has just turned 32, he has never played 15-a-side international rugby, he hardly played at provincial level in South Africa, and he has barely any coaching experience at Super Rugby level either.’

    Slot goes on to question the political reasons for Stick’s appointment.

    ‘Put it this way, could you imagine Eddie Jones taking a punt on an appointment in that way? Jones is so meticulous about whom he hires and he certainly never recruits unless he has got to know the prospective employee and is certain they are right.'

    The writer adds that he feels sorry for Stick, who did not appoint himself.

    ‘It would strike a magnificent positive note for SA Rugby and for transformation if the coach comes through. Simultaneously, it is hard not to feel sorry for a man so swiftly over-promoted or indeed the team when there are clearly more experienced coaches available.’

    Slot reflects on the comments made by Allister Coetzee last week. The Bok coach admitted that South Africa, and South African rugby, have its unique challenges.

    He then compares Stick’s appointment to that of Franco Smith, who was added to the Bok coaching staff on the eve of the November tour. He feels that Smith, as a former Test flyhalf and a coach with more than a decade of experience, has the right to be involved.

    ‘Smith is going to be working with backs. Yes, that is what Stick was employed to do too,’ says Slot. ’They are both here in London now and for the whole tour henceforth. It looks rather as if SA Rugby has employed one man – Stick – and decided that, actually, what it needs is another.'

    The Times has run a second piece focusing on the upcoming battle between England and the Boks. The headline reads, ’Now is the time to beat the Springboks, says Youngs’.

    The adjacent picture shows Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth manhandling Ben Youngs in a 2012 match at Twickenam. In the piece, Youngs talks about matching the Boks’ physicality this Saturday in order to claim a first win against South Africa in over a decade.

    ‘England are planning to give South Africa a taste of their own medicine,’ writes Rob Kitson in The Guardian.

    Kitson believes that the likely return of Courney Lawes will aid England in their quest to dominate the Boks. He adds that any second-row combination that features Lawes will give England the physical edge they need to beat the Boks.

    The Daily Telegraph is not reading too much into Roelof Smit’s tour-ending injury. Dan Schofield writes: ‘Whoever Coetzee selects in the pack can be guaranteed to provide England with the stiffest of physical tests that has been the hallmark of the Boks’ unbeaten run against England going back to 2006’.

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    Jon Cardinelli