Deon Davids’ experience as a head coach may just give him the edge over Jacques Nienaber in the race to replace Rassie Erasmus as the new Springbok coach, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
It’s no coincidence that Deon Davids has been seen with the Springboks on many occasions over the last 18 months during Rassie Erasmus’ reign as head coach. It actually seems like he has been earmarked a long time ago to be the man to take over from Erasmus next year.
Maybe even during Allister Coetzee’s time in charge …
It was in June 2017 in Durban, ahead of the Boks’ second Test against France, that one SA Rugby executive – without being prompted – spoke glowingly about what Davids had achieved with the Kings in Super Rugby that year. The Eastern Cape outfit, who were being operated on a shoestring budget and not many big names, had won six matches in the competition.
In this line of work, people don’t just drop names without it having some sort of meaning. It was also during the time that rumours about Erasmus’ return to South Africa from Munster were doing the rounds.
The reports linking Davids to the job seem to be genuine. With him being roped in by Erasmus on many occasions over the last 18 months gives an indication that the director of rugby values his input, as well as possibly trying to get him familiar with the culture of the team.
Over the next couple of years since performing miracles in Super Rugby with the Kings, Davids’ reputation took a bit of a knock after he won just three of the 42 games involving the Port Elizabeth side in the PRO14. But that team was arguably even worse off than the Kings team he coached in Super Rugby, because it was stripped of a couple of promising youngsters who were lured away to other unions.
But during that Super Rugby campaign Davids showed his tactical nous, as well as his man-management skills. He effectively had a bunch of semi-pro players and beat the likes of the Sharks, who came to Port Elizabeth with a Springbok-laden side.
One of those youngsters Davids lost at the Kings went on to win the World Cup with the Springboks earlier this month. Makazole Mapimpi was given his first shot at the big time by Davids, who had to take a different approach in recruiting players because of budget constraints at the Kings.
Davids also revived the career of flyhalf Lionel Cronje and gave Chris Cloete a chance to steal the most balls in Super Rugby that year after the Stormers let him go because he was ‘too small’. Both are now enjoying top careers abroad.
Defence guru Jacques Nienaber played a massive role with the Boks in their World Cup win, maybe even the biggest role, as the South Africans only conceded four tries during the tournament.
He is certainly a worthy candidate for the Bok job. That he is very close to Erasmus is a huge benefit, because sometimes friends can be honest with their bosses and state their case on a certain topic a lot more passionately.
But it really counts against him that he hasn’t had that pressure and experience that comes with being a head coach. Davids has that experience and would seamlessly slot into the current Bok coaching set-up after being in and around the camp over the last few years.
He certainly does seem to have the inside track for the Bok job.