Are our coaches not up to scratch?


JJ Harmse ask the question in his latest column whether SA coaches are in fact below par compared to those around the world?


Honestly, who of you did not smile when you read the headline that Jake White was in line for the England job? Or more to the point, who believed it?

Of course it is great for South African rugby to hear that two of our former coaches – Nick Mallett being the other – are in line to coach the old enemy – and good luck to them.

We all know how successful both of them were at their time and we all know that their departure from the Springbok team had more to do with politics than rugby logic.

Please don’t throw stats at me for this argument.

Mallett was the right guy at the right time and so was White. The fact that they both lost direction during their tenures is one that one can debate for many hours.

The reason I am using Jake’s latest news flash is to highlight the fact that it is indeed news when a South African coach is wanted somewhere else.

England have shown that they are prepared to appoint a foreign coach and one will have to see if they follow the well trodden path of the likes of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

I am in two minds here. Is it a good thing that our coaches are in high demand around the world because it is good for our rugby or is it a true reflection on the lack of ability by our coaches?

I have a funny feeling that it is the latter.

Take White out of the equation for now, how many times has a South African coach been mooted to coach a top country or even high profile club side?

I remember chasing after Mallett once in Hong Kong (post 1999) to follow up on a rumour that he was in line for the French coaching job.

He was kind enough to give me a minute to pose the question and then had a good laugh, telling me that he will probably be linked with some vacant job somewhere in the world for the rest of his coaching life.

How right he was.

White is in the same boat, but because he indicated his preference to coach England before (and while he was still coaching the Boks, one of the reasons for his ultimate exit); it has to be taken seriously.

But why is every half-decent New Zealand coach in demand everywhere in the world? Even Australian coaches, where they don’t have a third of the players or coaching numbers we have, seem to be more influential in the world of rugby.

We have won the Super Rugby title, we have won the World Cup and our Currie Cup competition is rated as one of the best in the world.

We have hundreds of players all around the world and in high and continued demand. We have some of the best referees in the world and even our current CEO, Jurie Roux, has been courted by the IRB and may be on his way to Dublin in the next couple of years.

Yet, no coaches – and I wonder why.

Lack of development structures? Are we not marketing their abilities enough? Lack of success on the international front?

Is the fact that that two out of five of our Super Rugby coaches hail from New Zealand and are not locally developed another reflection that we are seriously flawed in the coach developing department?

The big question, I suppose, is what we are going to do about it?

Facebook Comments


  1. I don’t know Morne

    Gert Smal
    Nic Mallet
    Jake White
    Brenden Venter
    Gary Gold
    Cheryl Calder
    Tim Noakes

    Eddie Jones struggled for three years to find a job in Japan.

    Similarly if you look at London from the days when Francois Pienaar was their professional player – coach at club level several South African coaches have made great strides in bringing professionalism to rugby in France and Europe.

    If you chat to our resident agent he will tell you that especially in France, England and Ireland South African coaches are held in high regard and the French often send their club coaches to the Sharks to look at the way we do things.

    I think that I have highlighted good coaches that have left and taken up positions all over the world to the advantage of other countries.

    And you know that SARU is incessantly running multi level coach training is being run as a separate entity quite successfully. I mean Vic Matfield, despite being such a good player had to pass his Level I coaching course before he could take up his position at the Bulls recently! This tells me JJ is not necessarily correct.

  2. Ja, ek het ook al gelees ons breiers
    is sterk in aanvraag oorsee en geniet
    hoë aansien – ek skat dis ook manne wat
    nie eers hier genoem word nie.

    Miskien is die samewerking tussen breiers
    en die bestuur nie altyd na wense nie.

  3. Not a national thing IMO, something like this is down to the individual. There may be other issues involved as Boertjie suggests.
    Why would England be looking at 2 saffa coaches to take over England job?

  4. Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 10:07 pm: Good question Harmse asks, and looking at the national levelit our guys might be argued to be on par with the best. So yes at that level maybe it is not a national thing but then looking at the last RWC and the number of kiwi coaches (Japan, Wales etc) involved maybe it is.

    Our S15 coaches are probably as good as their Antipodean counterparts but Harmse should ask the question whether we have depth in our coaching skills not whether the top ones are on par with their peers.

    My own experience is that New Zealand is way ahead of us with their coaching setup at junior levels. The depth of coaching skills and numbers at junior levels was a wakeup call when my eldest son transferred from playing in Cape Town to playing at junior level in Canterbury. He made the Canterbury representative side and there I saw the devotion and coaching skills that have made Canterbury the rugby powerhouse that it is.

  5. I thought this has been an issue for some time but it seems maybe not. For a rugby playing nation of our size one would think we would have better structures in place for coaches to be coached and coaching clinics.

    The are good coaches but its seems that SARU might not have enough systems in place for coaching at the higher level let alone sucession planning.

    The kiwis and the aussies for thei size of player base make us look rank amatuers at best. It is shameful. I put this all down the the top, SARU. If rugby is kak in South Africa its due to the management, SARU who are too politically minded and not enough rugby brains.

    Some one at SARU take some responsibilty please.

    I was shocked to find out that Naka had made a big statement about the ref been the most important man on the field. As if he had just figured that out!!!!!!! The kiwi ‘s have had this mind set for at least 15 years and now have playing the most important man on the field down to a fine art. ALa OOm papagaai.

    Hell we just realised the crash ball does nto work any more. Is there a rugby national stratgey???? For me there seems to be no planning. SARU lurches from one disaster to another and not planning but firefighting. Do we have any plans?? Can any one on this site point me to where we can find such plans in writing. David??

    As long as the supporters keep going to games and dont as the cadres do, which is to protest, nothing will change.

    We are then in fact, as supporters, part of the problem and endorse the way rugby is run(ruined) by watching and making sure the money comes in.

    Reply to DavidS @ 9:17 pm: imagine that as a coaching team!!!!!

  6. Kevin


    All the major recent tactical revolutions in the game that have been successful have come from South Africa.

    Unsuccessful ones:

    1. One legged line out lift by the Crusaders. Result = back to the drawing board

    2. Eight man hit: Australia = successful but causes incessant collapses

    South Africa innovations:

    1. Three man mini maul = everyone using it

    2. Kick and chase from kickoff = everyone using it

    3. Rush defence = everyone using it

    4. Drop goal = hated in New Zealand so successful

    5. Having many lineout options = everyone using it

    6. Ruck multiple phased setups on attacks = everyone using it

    7. Maul = everyone using it

    9. Structured first phase attacks using wings = even NZ uses it

    There are some others but the fact is most f these derived from local innovative coaching… and that is without too much of an organized structure above school level – ALTHOUGH THAT IS CHANGING.

    We keep selling ourselves short and JJ is doing it again with this stupid article.

  7. Reply to DavidS @ 10:46 am:

    1st of all – nothing is new, it has all been done before but going on the pro era your argument has some holes…

    6. Ruck multiple phased setups on attacks = everyone using it – this was actually IMO introduced & perfected by the Brumbies in 2001

    3. Rush defence = everyone using it – Wasps introduced this under Shaun Edwards and Ian McGeegan IIRC

    5. Having many lineout options = everyone using it – just common sense :whistling:

  8. Reply to DavidS @ 9:17 pm:

    David I think two of the coaches you mentioned coached Currie Cup rugby and one (Gert) Super Rugby.

    You know I hold most of those names in high regard, but the game has gone pro in 1996 and if we can only name 5 rugby coaches since that time given how big rugby is in this country that actually points to a problem to me.

    Of course we have some great coaches, and I am sure we can come up with at least 10 we all agree on are very good and on world class standards, but we can probably name 4 times as many who have coached in SA in the last 15 years that were absolutely shyte.

    In the last 5 years there has been a drive to introduce courses and clinics for coaches which is great, but if you compare that to the money invested specifically into NZ coaching structures we are years behind.

    Coaches are still traditionally appointed to high level positions in SA based on their playing ability as players in the past.

    Couple of names that I can think of from the top of my head will include:

    (Fwd coach at Lions whose name escapes me now)

    All of these guys coached, or are coaching at Super Rugby level or Bok level (with the exception of Loubscher – for now).

    Now again, some are very good, but the point is the structures in which we develop coaches seems to be done more on the reputation of individuals (as former players) than what it is finding competent folks that understand the complexities of coaching in the pro-era.

    Mallet is arguably the exception (great player turned great coach) but we just started with the professional game then and most of his players started out as amateurs.

    Our most celebrated coaches since (White and Meyer) came through coaching ranks – that sort of tells me something.

    We do not spend the time and effort to develop world class coaches – every once in a while we strike it lucky like with Mallet and Rassie – but for most of the time, we don’t.

  9. I’m lazy now: Where did Kitch Christie come from?
    (I believe he was a stand-in for Nelie
    Smith – thank God!)

  10. Carel and Rudolph were the only ex players…

    The rest all came via coaching structures

    Harry Viljoen, Mallet and Markgraaf had distant past playing histories that were so-so (and no Mallett was NOT good enough to be a Bok at that time)

    Kitch, Jake, Div, Heyneke were coaching structure produced…

    Enough of that though… should we judge in the big names or overall… ignore the likes of Jimmy Stonehouse and Dawie Theron and Jacques Nienaber and the Varsity Cup guys like Hugo Van As at UJ who changed their fortunes last season… Even at lower tier we ARE producing a myriad of good coaches despite having no formal coach training structures until about 2008…

    Think of Div with the Baby Boks as well as Loffie Eloff (now at Boland – whose team ripped EP’s Queers a new asshole in the pRemiership final).

    What you are doing in concentrating on the famous ones.

    The larger number of our post professionalism head coaches have come through structures.

    But still coaches need Boksmart accreditation these days to coach. Johann Ackerman was coaching in Ireland and at the Sharks already before going to the Lions. He was Boksmart accredited before he joined the Lions. Matfield had to pass Boksmart too.

    I mentioned the names I did based simply on my memory so yeah my memory is turning to Swiss Cheese in my post 40 years but remember that the coaches you have mentioned have all been at high profile levels where naturally there would be fewer. Think in terms of Big 5 coaches and Bok coaches.

    Frans Ludeke came through the ranks coaching first at Linden before rising.

    Muir similarly rose through the ranks as a coach after his playing days and had a highly prosperous club coaching career in CT and Joburg before joining the Sharks.

    About the only ones I’d agree with is Rassie Erasmus and Naka Drotske.

    That oke from the Griquas Dawie Theron is also great. So is Jimmy Stonehouse (both of whom should be on Heyneke’s shopping list IMO)

    BUt I don’t think your answer is actually an aswer to the statement I made, namely that JJ is wrong… we DO have good coaches. Your answer I am reading is that we are producing them by accident rather than design… but the point is untouched, namely that JJ is wrong… we DO have many excellent coaches and many of the modern game’s post professionalism innovations are from South Africans.

    If the present Boksmart system starts to deliver coaches at top level we will have a coaching factory to add to our already rich heritage of great coaches…

    Where they coached is immaterial… Francois Pienaar JUST coached London Irish and achieved success with them.

    I reiterate that we DO have excellent and innovative coaches… but I agree that a formal coaching training structure is a thing of recent onset… NEVERTHELESS we are still producing many great coaches.

    In short… you are not answering the fundamental question which is whether we do or do not have good coaches. I say we do.

    You’re saying we lack formal structures. I say you’re right until 2008, so not disagreeing with you at all.

    Fact is IN SPITE of lack of structures we’re still producing the Dawie Therons, Jimmy Stonehouses, Heyneke Meyers, Rassie Erasmuses, Fleck, Proudfoot, Slapchips etc etc etc…



    phased attacks… go have a look at the gameplan that Markgraaf had the Boks play in 1996… then see where the Brumbies got it from… perfected yes… invented?… bullshit.

    Rush defence was brought to rugby by Gary Gold and Brenden Venter IIRC

    Multiple lineout options… yup… stands to reason it’s common sense but in the amateur era you had TWO jumpers… 4 and 5 … but in the pro era WE were the ones that used the idea of having many options first… Started with Kitch Christie… remember Mark Andrews at 8… in RWC 95 final…

    Even last year the AB’s and Aussies went into games with just two and sometimes three LO options…


    Hy was Leeus afrigter gewees… dis hoekom hy Mark Andrews op 8 gespeel het in die final… en hoekom die span oorwegend Leeus spelers was (onthou die Tiaan STrauss polemiek?)

  11. Reply to DavidS @ 5:49 pm:

    I worked with a lot of coaches in the past and have experienced these structures myself. We have the natural raw talent in coaches (as we have in players) so yes we do produce good ones, but we need more formal structures to improve them.