When the first press release was sent out about the National Planning Camps by the new Springbok coaching staff I could not quite get my head around what Heyneke Meyer was planning to achieve? Sure the need to touch base with players he will only have one week with prior to the first test against the Poms is crucial, but the extended squads invited which included guys playing Vodacom Cup rugby or even age-group rugby did leave me, and a couple of other commentators slightly bemused.
But the madness was not in the methods Meyer was employing; it was on how we read it.
One of the more crucial appointments on Meyer’s coaching staff was that of Rassie Erasmus. Seen by many to have a rugby brain par-excellence, Rassie is also similar to Meyer in the belief that any team’s success is built through laying a proper foundation – and to get everyone singing from the same hymn-sheet.
Western Province and Stormers rugby are today reaping the fruit of the tireless work done by Erasmus behind the scenes at the union the day he stepped back from hands-on coaching to assume a role of ‘Director of Coaching’. Since then Erasmus could be seen actively involved at age-group level of WP Rugby where he started implementing the visions and plans the senior team was tasked to carry out. The end result was continuity built through all levels of the union where youngsters weren’t only developed as players, but understood what was expected of them then, and the day they step up into the senior teams.
It is not the first time we have seen this in SA Rugby of course, Meyer himself used this as the blue-print which saw the Bulls recover from 0 from 11 win result in Super Rugby at the turn of the century, to the most dominant South African rugby franchise in the last decade.
This mindset is clearly present in the Springbok setup where at the appointment of Erasmus, Meyer said that one of his (Erasmus’) primary roles would be to ensure a sense of continuity and succession planning at all levels. This does not only include teams and players that represent national teams, but also all the Super Rugby franchises.
This morning it was announced that 3 U/20 players have yet again been called up to the Cape Town leg of the National Planning camp, again indicating that Meyer’s on a mission to have everybody know, and buy into his vision for Springbok rugby.
When you sit back and consider what he’s doing, it all seems so logical while at the same time asking yourself why this has never been done before?
Of course it remains to be seen whether Meyer can succeed where most before him failed in getting all unions and franchises to support him and the Springbok cause, but there is no doubt a national plan of action is the right way to go when coaching the national team.