Incoming Vodacom Bulls defence coach Joey Mongalo is looking forward to the chance to grow and learn as much as he can at the union under director of rugby Jake White. DYLAN JACK reports.
Mongalo was recently confirmed as the Bulls’ new defence coach as White shook up the team’s coaching staff by also bringing in Russell Winter as their new forwards coach.
Despite his relative youth for a professional coach at 35-years-old, Mongalo already has a decade of provincial coaching experience, having coached at every level at the Lions from U19 to Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby.
This year, Mongalo has been busy working with the Wits’ Varsity Cup team while also studying towards his masters in Industrial Psychology at the University of Pretoria.
He told SARugbymag.co.za that as far as his coaching education goes, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to ‘study’ at the Bulls.
‘Studying towards my masters has taken over my life at the moment so I haven’t digested it all completely,’ Mongalo said ‘I am seeing an opportunity – a massive, massive opportunity. To be able to work with the men that we are going to work with at the place we are going to be working.
‘In rugby we often say coaches and players have paid their school fees,’ Mongalo added. ‘It is a phrase we use to say that you have gained experience. These are expensive school fees here. To sit in an environment with a guy who has been successful across continents is very rare.
‘It is like getting to “attend school” at an Ivy League school – if I can put it that way. So I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to learn with Jake. Also to work with a guy like Russell Winter – we coached the Lions’ Vodacom Cup team in 2014. To reunite with him is pretty special. It is an opportunity to grow myself, my trade and also in general as a rugby coach.’
Mongalo was schooled at Pretoria Boys’ High and played his one and only Currie Cup game for the Bulls – who gave him a job in their marketing department when he decided to switch his focus towards his education.
‘It doesn’t take much to want to play or coach rugby at Loftus and Pretoria,’ he said. ‘For me, more intrinsically I guess, I was at a junior at the Bulls when they were really on a high. That era under Heyneke Meyer when they were winning [Vodacom] Super Rugby titles and dominating Currie Cup competitions.
‘To be able to see that as a junior and experience that was a massive privilege to say the least. To be able to go back and add value to a union which I have seen function at its very best is very attractive. Having gone to Pretoria Boys High, the city is quite special. I have a lot of ties to the city itself.’
Despite the attractions of essentially returning home to Pretoria, Mongalo says it was still a difficult decision to close the chapter at the Lions.
‘Just as the Bulls gave me my first professional opportunity in marketing, the Lions gave me my first coaching experience. Not just that – but I was literally able to coach at every single level in South African rugby at the same union. To say goodbye to that will never be easy. There is a lot of gratitude and deep and meaningful friendships built with players and coaches over the years. You don’t say goodbye to that easily.’
When deciding on the defensive system to implement at the Bulls, Mongalo says he will be looking at three important aspects: the players available, the competition and the context of where the team will be playing.
‘Consensus is massive. The coach and players need to get to a place where they see the same picture,’ Mongalo said. ‘That might take time and relationship-building to get there. Clarity of thought from the coach is also important.
‘What system to apply is based on three things – the context, the competition and the cavalry. The cavalry is the type of players we have – they determine a lot in terms of the linespeed that you can get and height you want to tackle. Super Rugby is a ruthless competition played normally in dry conditions.
‘So guys can run the ball, you have to consider that. Then context – you have to consider that you are playing at the Highveld so most teams will try to get out the blocks quite early because they are aware of altitude. Those three things affect the way I view rugby in general and our defensive system.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images