“Need Jimmy Stonehouse For BULLS.” This is the fan page that has gained many likes in the last 48 hours on Facebook and it continues to grow. Add the memes, the angry Bulls fans, the out roar from various media outlets and you end up with a section of Blue Bulls fans who are hoping that former Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse will return to rescue the Bulls. Jimmy, currently coaching in Japan with Toshiba Brave Lupus and is currently on holiday in South Africa before returns to Japan for another season in the Top League. Stonehouse talks the Blue Bulls job, the fans, learning as a coach, being a “no nonsense” coach and transformation.
- How is your time in Japan – We are in pre- season at the moment, we have nine players in Super Rugby including Liam Messam, Cory Jane, Michael Leitch to name a few. The return of the Super rugby guys will see us go into a short month where will have the full squad. I love rugby and I am looking forward to the new season. I do miss my country though and I would like to return.
- The page on Facebook and the petition to get you back home, have you seen them? – I’ve been receiving lots of those from friends and family, I am humbled that fans are hoping I could return home and be involved with such a big union. I even saw the paper today with a few letters too. Unfortunately, in the back of my head, I know fans have little sway in matters like this.
- The no nonsense tag, where does it come from? – This is very bizarre to be honest. If you get appointed at a small union, Like when I was at the Pumas, we had two sets of players; those set to retire and others looking to make a name for themselves. They had to be managed differently to get success. Inspire and motivate both groups to achieve. There is no one size fits all attitude with coaching. You manage what is in front of you. Developing a team, trust and the players who have no desire to work hard can pack their bags and go. It is a privilege to play professional rugby.
If you coach at a big union – the mindset is different. You are surrounded by quality players so you need to instil “Discipline in all aspects of their play” You need to have guys willing to follow the rules that will improve a player, the union and myself as a coach. I need to be able to coach the team on my own. I need to be able to take ownership of the team and this will allow me to take the responsibility and if you aren’t allowed to select your own team – trouble. If I get fired for poor results, I sleep better knowing I was in-charge of ALL selections. Respect the Investors, the staff, your teammates and yourself is my mantra.
- What is your approach at a new job? Stepping at a new team, you first look at resources, apply change areas that need it and keep what is working. You need to appoint your own staff, people who know their fields, people who will challenge me and my biggest role as a Head coach is to not be insecure. To build a team you as coaches need to be the best. I must never be afraid of someone taking my job if I am head coach. An aspect about me is, I say how I feel and I say it in a respectful manner – I can’t be a puppet. Different opinions are what makes rugby or coaching special.
- So what are the coaching pathways about? A complete farce then? If you look at it, history favors those who have strong connections. Look at how good the coaches who used to be teachers – Graham Henry and Jake White to mention a few. People who understand different personalities and have the art to teach. While there is value in ex-players becoming coaches, many want to coach how they played or were coached which won’t work most of the time. Some have an unwillingness to do the hard yards of becoming a coach, which can be damaging to sides.
- Transformation –Transformation is there, it is happening – stop mourning about it and get to improve the players available. Stop using the word ‘quota’ as well. Drop the word!! Use the players in the system and make them better. I don’t care about labels, as a coach your job is to find ways to improve a player and make them effective at that level. If I have to do things my way, I believe I can make a change and a difference. I believe I can change any player for the good.
All players need to realize, you are what you are inside, and your desire to achieve is imbedded in you. The need to put in the hard work, dedication and aiming to be the best.
Who you are rarely changes. If you want to be a Springbok and train hard enough you can become one for a prolonged time. The problem in South Africa is the pressure poured on all players – they wilt. We have stopped focusing on the small things that make the biggest difference in the game.
- The different players you work with in Japan, how do you manage the different cultures and instil the mentality of improving and winning? – I have a guy like Richard Kahui, he has been such an example for a youngster like Coenie van Wyk for example. He comes an hour early for do small things like his kicks, passing and footwork. What this does is inspire those around him. This is a guy at the tail end of his career, a guy who has won it all but still goes through this routine. He sets the tone and many have followed him.
When you are here, remember that you can’t buy all the international stars and look to win the Top League just like that.
You need to also coach the Japanese players and they respond. They are part of the success we have been achieving. An all-inclusive approach leads to a successful side. I have met players back home who don’t make the game a passion, they use it to earn a lot of money and they take a few shortcuts. A dangerous culture that must be culled.