Indaba must lead to action

SA Rugby’s decision to host its first-ever three-day coaching indaba is long overdue, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

For too long, SA Rugby has lacked clear and decisive leadership. In fact, over the last year, the reported clash between former president Regan Hoskins and CEO Jurie Roux has only added to the pessimism that has pervaded over the state of the game in recent times.

Indeed, it was very revealing when now director of rugby at Munster, Rassie Erasmus, told The Times that while he did think about the Bok top job, it was not without reservations.

‘If I took it now, I know that in two years’ time, I’ll be dancing to other people’s tunes to keep my job because I’m worried about my contract. I’ll start playing the political game,’ he commented.

Erasmus has been joined in Ireland by renowned defensive guru Jacques Nienaber, and it’s damning how many top South African coaches have increasingly opted to head abroad.

Former World Cup-winning coach Jake White has made a considerable impact at Montpellier. Durban-based John Mitchell is coaching the USA. Ex-Sharks coach John Plumtree has been a highly successful assistant at the Hurricanes.

Alan Solomons, who worked wonders at the Kings, has been coaching in Scotland. Former Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is in Japan, while Junior Bok coach Dawie Theron recently joined the Docomo Red Hurricanes. Ex-Bok and Italy coach Nick Mallett has also found the SuperSport studio more rewarding than a return to coaching in South Africa, and the list goes on and on …

Finally, though, it seems that SA Rugby has now identified and acted on the need to bring all coaches, conditioning gurus and specialists together to share ideas and begin working towards a common goal.

For some time, it’s the sort of collaboration that has benefited New Zealand rugby, where centralisation ensures cooperation that prioritises the wellbeing of the All Blacks, with coaches sharing information for the betterment of the national cause.

It’s something that South African rugby desperately needs to aspire towards, and the announcement of the indaba – a concept believed to have been driven by Bok coach Allister Coetzee – is a clear indication that the leadership at SA Rugby realises that something has to change for the better.

After all, the Boks have slipped into a dramatic decline in world rugby, with recent defeats to Ireland, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand revealing a host of clear shortcomings.

The Boks have appeared to be caught between styles of play, and while there has been talk of a new-look side still working to establish a new ‘identity’, there has been no clarity around what they want this to be.

The indaba should provide a platform for coaches from around the country to discuss ideas, and share what they feel has worked for them at different levels of the game.

Over the three days, there needs to be some consensus as to which principles and core aspects of play will be encouraged across all franchises in South Africa to ensure there is a sense of uniformity that will benefit the Boks at Test level.

The decision for conditioning coaches to attend the indaba is also a good one as there needs to be considerable discussions over player management and standardised conditioning systems that should go towards ensuring Test players have the necessary conditioning to match the intensity of a side such as the All Blacks.

Although certain details of the indaba are still to be finalised, one would expect a seasoned advisor such as Mallett to attend the gathering and provide his highly respected input. Jake White has also expressed his desire to make contributions to the Bok cause where possible, and his insights would also be invaluable.

Similarly, Brendan Venter, a good friend of Coetzee, has strong views that should be tapped into, while Mitchell would also undoubtedly be able to contribute meaningfully.

There has been talk that Coetzee will have the go-ahead to make additions to his Bok management team after the indaba if he sees the need to do so, and there should certainly be discussions around which specialists could add most value in key areas such as defence and kicking.

Ultimately, SA Rugby has taken one positive step forward by arranging this indaba. Now they need to ensure it is not just about talk, but rather leads to much-needed action.

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis