Deon Davids’ presence in the Springbok camp raises new questions about the head coach position beyond 2019, writes JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Who will be the next Bok coach?
Rassie Erasmus has already made it clear that he intends to vacate the position after the World Cup in order to focus on his director of rugby duties. Who then will be at the helm in four months’ time?
Deon Davids was spotted coming out of a Bok team meeting at Monte Casino on Monday afternoon. Later, he was out on the training pitch at St Stithians, watching over the players as they prepared for the Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Davids was released from the Southern Kings last month. Tongues started to wag when he was first spotted in the Bok camp.
And yet there’s been no official word about Davids’ role or place in the national set-up. On Monday, the Bok management appeared reluctant to comment on the matter.
It would make sense for Erasmus to involve Davids now if he intended to bring him into the coaching team at the end of the season. South African rugby has a long, unhappy tradition of hiring and firing entire coaching teams, and we’re yet to see one man groomed for the head coach position from within. It’s time for a change.
Erasmus touched on this at a media conference staged at SA Rugby headquarters in June. While the focus of that conference was the new contracting model, Erasmus said that succession planning would be key to improving the franchises and the national team itself.
It’s not exactly a groundbreaking idea. Scott Robertson and Warren Gatland have been touted as potential successors to Steve Hansen, but the All Blacks coach has often given the impression that assistant coach Ian Foster is next in line for the job.
Hansen himself, of course, served for eight years under Graham Henry before graduating to the head coach position in 2012.
Perhaps Davids is only in Johannesburg as an observer. SA U20 coach Chean Roux was also in attendance on Monday. Perhaps Davids is – as some have suggested – being lined up to mentor the Junior Boks. There’s another rumour linking Davids to the Stormers.
Perhaps this is beside the point.
The Bok players and coaches have spoken at length about planning for the future over the past few days. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Erasmus – who is contracted as director of rugby until 2023 – comes out and and confirms that a successor is already within his sights.
If not Davids, then who? Would Erasmus elevate one of his assistants?
Matt Proudfoot is often asked to handle the media, a job that’s typically assigned to a senior member of the coaching team. That said, Jacques Nienaber – Erasmus’ right-hand man and one of the sharpest rugby minds in South Africa or anywhere else – wouldn’t be a bad option. Lions mentor Swys de Bruin and another former member of the Kings coaching staff, Mzwandile Stick, could also be in the mix.
How about the options abroad? Jake White, Johan Ackermann, Johann van Graan … all of these men would be back in South Africa in a second if they knew that SA Rugby wanted them to coach the Boks. While Gary Gold is doing great things with the USA, I doubt he would turn down an offer to return home.
Why shouldn’t South African rugby address this issue sooner rather than later?
Erasmus has always been someone who thinks outside the box and has one eye on the future. There’s a lot of energy and optimism in the current Bok set-up, and one would hope that this group is enabled to take the next step after 2019 whether South Africa win the World Cup or not.