The lack of accountability is astounding when it comes to the leadership of South African rugby, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Again, the integrity of South African rugby’s national leadership is under question. Again, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the appointment of the next Springbok coach.
There is no accountability for statements made and never a consequence. The public is owed honesty but it’s far-fetched to believe the current leadership is capable of anything but sidestepping the main issues around the Bok team and the governance of professional rugby in this country.
It’s convenient practice for the president to refer to the CEO to avoid an answer and for the CEO to refer to the president.
It’s not going to change under the current leadership, which doesn’t mean it must not or cannot be highlighted every time there is avoidance to a question.
Surely, when it comes to the Springboks, the most important thing is appointing the best available option to coaching the national team.
This coach obviously would have to buy into every aspect of transformation and every numbers game Saru’s administration and the politicians believe represents an advancement on transformation.
Forget for a moment how misguided this may be or how effective it may be.
Let’s just look at the appointment.
The Boks were a shambles in 2015 and hugely disappointing at the World Cup. The potential of 2013 never materialised and Heyneke Meyer did the honourable thing in stepping aside.
Now for the successor.
The initial speculation was the appointment had been made and it was former Stormers coach Allistair Coetzee.
Saru president Regan Hoskins, in December, told the media Coetzee’s appointment was news to him and that there was no haste to appoint a new coach. He said Saru had to explore every avenue to get the right man appointed and that transformation would be at the heart of the new coach’s performance-related key performance indicators. He said anyone who applied for the job had to understand the emphasis on transformation. He spoke of spreading the net as far as it could go and he said the leadership would entertain the prospect of a foreign coach if he was the best qualified and he agreed to all the transformation targets and goals.
Now the job won’t be advertised.
Now it will be down to the leadership's idea of who represents the right candidate. The operational process is the responsibility of the CEO, who then makes a recommendation to the administration, who then, by way of all 14 provincial presidents, appoint the coach.
Rugby acumen will be secondary to political agendas. That’s a given.
But at least allow the job to be advertised so that it takes the potential list of successors beyond the thoughts of an existing leadership. At least, that’s the way it should be if the ultimate is to get the best to make the Springboks the best.
I know for a fact that Jake White wanted to apply to coach the Boks. Could this be why the post won’t be advertised?
Regardless of your thoughts of White, the person or White, the rugby coach. Here’s Saru’s dilemma: The leadership can’t stand White, the person. But they can’t counter White’s rugby CV. He won the U21 World Cup for South Africa. He won a Tri-Nations for South Africa. He won the World Cup for the Springboks. He coached the Brumbies for two seasons and in year two they won the Australian conference, beat the Bulls in South Africa in the semi-finals and narrowly lost the final to the Chiefs in New Zealand. The following year he won the South African Super Rugby conference with the Sharks, won a home play-off against the Highlanders and lost an away semi-final to the Crusaders.
White wants to be involved with the Springboks. If the job was advertised and he agreed to every transformation condition, in terms of quotas or ‘targets’ in terms of black player representation, then what? Then the leadership is stuffed. How does it dismiss the quality of his application, unless the directive is the next coach cannot be white, by name, or white by colour.
Those who are headhunting Meyer’s successor have never been held accountable or held themselves accountable for the appointment of Meyer or his predecessor Peter de Villiers, neither of whom delivered a World Cup gold medal.
The questions must continued to be asked and the rugby public should know there are forums to ask those questions.
The lack of accountability is astounding when it comes to the leadership. Nothing sticks.
The Stormers' decision not to appoint former Lions coach John Mitchell is an example of the ugliness in South African rugby and the weighted influence of those elected officials to dictate the professionalism of a professional game.
Hoskins, as Saru president, applauded Western Province president Thelo Wakefield for ensuring Mitchell was not appointed Stormers coach.
Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal recommended Mitchell to replace Eddie Jones, who lasted a week before taking the more lucrative England job.
Smal was overruled by an administration that was influenced by senior players, Hoskins and, according to Hoskins, the president of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, Kevin de Klerk.
Hoskins was widely quoted as saying he and De Klerk advised Wakefield to stay away from Mitchell. This was based on their experience of him when Mitchell was charged with 28 counts of bringing the game into disrepute, but after a disciplinary hearing had all 28 counts dropped.
Mitchell was reinstated as Lions coach and then left on his terms given the obvious breakdown in trust between players, president and coach.
A month after Hoskins was quoted defending Wakefield's decision and elaborating on his and De Klerk's advice to Wakefield, De Klerk tells the media he had nothing to do with the Stormers' decision.
Then he told SARugbymag.co.za a few days later that he did speak with Wakefield 'before or after' the decision was made. And so the recollection comes and goes to suit the agenda.
It sadly will never stop, which again doesn’t mean questions shouldn’t or can’t be asked, like why, how and who?
What is the harm in advertising the post of Bok coach?
What was the dynamic behind the energy drink (Bok Pulse) aligned with the Springboks in 2015? Was there a conflict of interest in the how of the deal?
When does the president of Saru front up and be accountable? When does the CEO? And what is the consequence?
Don’t ever expect an answer from within Saru, don’t expect us to not ask the questions and please never stop asking the questions yourselves.
Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images