SIMNIKIWE XABANISA wonders how SA Rugby could appoint Springbok defence coach Brendan Venter on a part-time basis.
Having waited three months for Venter to be confirmed as the Boks’ defence (and exits) coach in one of those will he, won’t he stories, the man’s arrival has raised more questions than answers.
While Venter immersed himself in the job at hand at the latest Bok camp this week, the Italians – whom we thought were his former employers – were piping up about how he was still their coach all the way to 2019.
In all earnest, this should have been obvious in the fine print of SA Rugby’s press release celebrating their finally 'getting their man'. The statement said Venter was hired on a consultancy basis, which begged the first of many questions.
The first is how an organisation can hire a defence coach as a consultant. A defence coach is often the one guy the team is essentially accountable to, because this facet of play is pretty much where everything else the team is going to do, originates.
How, then, do you put such an important area – especially when the Boks were more speed bump than roadblock in their defending last year – in the hands of a part-timer? Also, didn’t the fact that Chean Roux and JP Ferreira effectively acted as consultants play a massive role in how awful the Boks were in defence?
In a recent column, Jake White, normally very blunt in his assessment of all things, was subtle in appearing not only to question Venter’s appointment as a defensive consultant, but also the fact that the former Bok centre almost always works on that basis.
In making the point that New Zealand teams would never allow a similar situation, White, by briefly tracking Venter’s history at London Irish, Saracens, the Sharks and Italy, also suggested that working as a consultant meant the 1995 World Cup winner would always escape blame when things go awry.
Most telling, though, were Venter’s comments about his understanding of the contract he has signed. The good doctor said, while nailed on for the three-match series against the French in June, he wasn’t sure about his involvement in the Rugby Championship, also taking the time to mercifully assure us that he wouldn’t help coach Italy to another defeat of the Boks like he did last year.
If this is the best deal SA Rugby could get, a compromise heavily weighted in Italy’s favour, just what was it that they were negotiating for this long?
And forget the once mighty Boks having to pick up crumbs from little Italy when it comes to a coach, Venter’s contract situation is more helpful in painting an even bleaker picture for Bok head coach Allister Coetzee’s tenure.
In the absence of information from SA Rugby or Coetzee about what their deal is in the next period, after a nightmare season last year, speculation is all the rest of us can engage in.
With Venter’s wagon tied to his 'friend' Coetzee’s, it would appear he has been hired for only as long as SA Rugby are certain the latter remains in charge. In plainer English, SA Rugby have kept their options open, as has been speculated, in case the Boks bottle the series against the French.
The even bigger talk doing the rounds (and don’t take my word for this) is that Rassie Erasmus has as good as signed to rejoin SA Rugby in July as Bok head coach.
Should that be true, it would make absolute sense for the organisation not to hold on to Venter, because if Erasmus does return, the familiar face of Jacques Nienaber would be his preferred defence coach.
Sounds like wild speculation, but what else have we got to go on?
– Xabanisa is a freelance sports writer
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images