Former England and Harlequins stalwart Nick Easter talks to SHAUN GOOSEN about coaching the Sharks in the Currie Cup, his career highs and lows, and why SA Rugby should look north.
What made you turn to coaching?
I love rugby and being part of the contest with a group, so it’s the next best thing outside of playing. I’d also like to give back to the game.
What are your future coaching plans?
To coach at the highest level; club and country.
How did the opportunity at coaching the Sharks in the Currie Cup arise?
I spent a week fact-finding here and once I had settled with Harlequins I thought it would be great to get experience down here.
How long are you with the Sharks?
I am here until the end of the Currie Cup; not on contract.
How much potential do you see in this current Sharks side?
There is a lot of talent here, but the key is delivering on that week in and week out as an organisation.
Attendance at rugby matches in South Africa has been lower than ever over the past several seasons. Should SA franchises look north?
SA Rugby could explore the possibility of joining a revamped European league [not in operation] involving English and French teams along with the Celtic nations. The financial gain would be huge which in part would help to keep South African players in the country. Attendances would soar; imagine a Leinster, Saracens, Toulouse [match] at Kings Park in a major tournament game. Logistically, from a travel perspective, it makes more sense as no jetlag would be suffered.
Is Super Rugby dead?
I love it, but it has become too diluted from the original product and too spread out. When it was in a more condensed format, playing each team once, interest was at fever pitch and the rarity of certain teams playing at another home ground generated nearly full capacity crowds.
What should be done to halt the player drain?
I believe joining Europe would help SA rugby financially, logistically and from a player point of view.
You played 281 times for the Harlequins and earned 54 Test caps for England. What are some of your career highs and lows?
The highs would be winning the English Premiership with Quins [in the 2011-12 season] and the journey to the World Cup final against the odds in 2007 [with England]. That was a lot of fun. The low would be when I wasn’t selected for England between 2012 and 2014 when I felt I was at my peak.
Having been a part of three World Cup campaigns, how far do you see Eddie Jones’ men going in Japan in 2019?
Well, it can go one of two ways. A lot of staff have left so if he recruits well and they give England a lift anything is possible, but it could go the other way with the stability created over the past two seasons.
And the Springboks?
A lot will depend on their game with the All Blacks in the pool stage, but they are progressing nicely; similarly to 2007 and 2015 when England and Australia got to a final with a newly-appointed coach a year out. Anything is possible.