Where are SA’s black coaches?

Former Springbok flank THANDO MANANA says black coaches are being denied opportunities at a high level.

In early April, Lions coach Johan Ackermann announced that he would be joining English Premiership club Gloucester at the end of the Super Rugby season. I am happy for him. After serving his apprenticeship as John Mitchell’s assistant coach at the Lions, Ackermann turned a franchise that was relegated in 2012 into Super Rugby finalists in 2016.

In fact, he was so influential that it almost went unnoticed that he didn’t have a rugby coaching qualification. That’s not to say he didn’t do a good job – he did, and the results speak for themselves – but it got me questioning the process of appointing coaches in South Africa.

Coaches here appear to be appointed on a whim, whereas in New Zealand, someone like former All Blacks No 8 Zinzan Brooke couldn’t coach a senior professional team as he doesn’t have the coaching qualifications.

Ackermann’s departure at the Lions will create an opportunity for another coach. In that sense, it could be a positive for South African rugby. But who will be the franchise’s next coach? Will it be a black coach? Probably not.

SA Rugby has a Strategic Transformation Plan, which aims for 50% of coaches at provincial and national levels to be black by 2019, so surely black candidates should be seriously considered when franchise jobs become available? How can SA Rugby claim to be transforming the game when only one of our six Super Rugby franchises has a black coach (Deon Davids at the Kings) and all seven of this year’s Currie Cup Premier Division coaches are white? Are you telling me that none of the Currie Cup Premier Division unions was able to recruit a black coach?

John Williams, who is the only black coach to have won the Vodacom Cup (with the Valke), and who took Namibia to a World Cup, has not been given a proper shot. Neither has Paul Treu, who won the World Rugby Sevens Series title with the Blitzboks in 2008-09, or former SA Women’s coach Lawrence Sephaka.

There’s also former Griffons coach Stanley Raubenheimer, former Cats coach Chester Williams, Pukke’s Varsity Cup-winning coach Jonathan Mokuena, former Bok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher, Elliot Fana, Jerome Paarwater, Kaya Malotana … the list goes on.

It’s been 25 years since unification, yet black coaches still aren’t coming through the system.

It’s time for SA Rugby to consider adopting the ‘Rooney Rule’. This is a NFL policy (named after Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the league’s diversity committee) that requires franchises to interview minority candidates for head coach and senior operations jobs.

It is sometimes referred to as affirmative action, but there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. Its purpose is to ensure that minority coaches, especially African-Americans, are considered for high-level coaching positions.

Since the Rooney Rule was established in 2003, several NFL franchises have hired African- American head coaches. At the start of the 2006 NFL season, the percentage of African- American coaches had jumped to 22%, up from 6% in 2003. This year, there are eight minority head coaches out of 32 (25%).

If this rule were to be implemented in South African rugby, it would give black coaches the much-needed opportunity they are crying out for. Why is SA Rugby and its affiliates not prepared to correct the wrongs of the past when it comes to coaches?

When a black coach does reach the highest level, he is used as a scapegoat for the team’s failures. Yes, I’m referring to Mzwandile Stick, the backline coach who was made the fall guy for the Boks’ disastrous 2016 season.

When Allister Coetzee was appointed Bok coach, he said he would mentor Stick. Yet, barely a year later, Stick was demoted to the Junior Boks as an assistant coach.

What impact will this have on his coaching career?