It would be grossly premature to become preoccupied with concerns over Brendan Venter’s involvement with the Boks now that they’ve been drawn with Italy for the 2019 World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
When South Africa were drawn alongside Italy in Pool B on Wednesday morning, it took no time at all before understandable questions were raised about what potential conflicts may lie in wait for Venter and the Boks.
To recap, Venter is contracted to Italy until the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, but has most recently been working with the Boks as a defence and exits coach ahead of the three-Test series against France in June.
What has to be kept in mind, though, is the fact that Venter has not signed any long-term contract with the Boks. The former Sharks and Saracens director of rugby has repeatedly said that his intention is simply to add value where and when possible. He also unequivocally stated that he will not coach against the Boks again.
So let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Venter is committed to the Boks for the immediate future, but there is virtually no guarantee at this stage that he will still be involved in the national set-up by the time the 2019 World Cup rolls around.
By the looks of it, Venter’s role will be reassessed by all parties concerned once the June series has come to an end. And while he may continue in a consultancy capacity for the Rugby Championship, the Italian Rugby Federation confirmed last month that it was expecting Venter back, ahead of the November internationals this year.
As it is, Venter has openly admitted that as soon as he feels he is no longer adding value to a certain team, he will happily walk away with no strings attached.
What is not in doubt is that Venter still has plenty of value to add to the Boks for the indefinite future, and his heart remains in the right place. He wants to make a difference for as long as his services are required and desired.
At a time when the Springboks need all the help they can get, let’s not lose sight of this fact. The Boks should bank as much intellectual property as they can before paying any attention to suggestions that Venter’s involvement is a counterproductive conflict of interest.
Similarly, let’s avoid suddenly suggesting the Boks are set for a painful implosion in Japan now that they have been drawn alongside the All Blacks. It really could have been a whole lot worse for the Boks when one considers they may well have also been grouped with increasingly competitive Argentina.
Instead, the Boks should feel comfortable about overcoming world No 15 Italy, the repechage winners and a still-to-be-determined qualifier from Africa 1. From there, even should the Springboks lose to the All Blacks and finish second in Pool B, they would then face the winners of Pool A, who are likely to be Ireland.
So when one considers the journey the Boks will have to navigate to reach the final four, it’s not quite as treacherous as it could have been. Indeed, if Allister Coetzee had been offered this draw before heading to Kyoto in Japan, I reckon he would have quite happily accepted it. And one can rest assured that the outcome will certainly not have altered his advocation of Venter’s involvement with the Boks.
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