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Jake – If Victor and Fourie want to coach start at schoolboy level

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Jake White have coloured our websites the last couple of years with his comments and opinions on the ongoing drama in SA Rugby.

This week in his article on All out Rugby he digs into the rumours that Fourie Du Preez and Victor Matfield are on the shortlist of the Bulls to take over from Mitchell.

I do not agree much with Jake but this week he hits the nail on the head.

Jake White – Fourie du Preez and Victor Matfield are two of the greatest rugby brains we’ve produced in the last 20 years. Many older rugby supporters will have just as much respect for Naas Botha and Frik du Preez. All four were fantastic Blue Bulls and Springboks.

Fourie and Victor are reportedly candidates to coach the Bulls if John Mitchell leaves for England. Now, if someone said tomorrow that Naas and Frik were on the shortlist to coach the backs and forwards at Loftus, people would say that’s crazy.

But what’s the difference? Just because those players are legends of the game, some of the greatest ever, doesn’t mean they can coach.

There’s the science of coaching, and then there’s the art. The science of coaching comes from a book, but the art comes with time in the saddle.

In rugby there’s a position on most management teams for a skills coach – an example of his role is teaching the players how to catch and pass. A coach can do drills that are repetitions to improve the skill of catching and passing, but that doesn’t mean he’s taught the players where that skill fits into the game.

When I was starting out as a professional coach at Transvaal, I remember teaching coaches in the townships how to run the old Jim Blair, four-corners passing drill. When I went back there six weeks later, they would repeat that drill exactly like I had showed them, but the player had absolutely no idea how to apply the skill in a match.

It’s a bit like mastering a kata in karate, but when you’re in a pub and someone punches you in the mouth, you’ve got to understand how to use those self-defence skills in a real life situation. If you don’t teach them how to use that skill in a live situation then that skill is nothing. That’s an example of the art of coaching, and that’s what we’re losing in South Africa.

A guy who has been coaching a high school First XV for 15 years, is better in year 15 than he was in year one. Why? Because he’s learnt from his mistakes, and he’s learnt what works.

Vince Lombardi didn’t make his famous quotes after one season of coaching, he made those quotes based on years of experience in the NFL.

SA Schools coach Sean Erasmus has taken a post at the Lions. He’s spent his years as a schoolmaster, went up the ranks, and I think he should take the Lions U20s, and then in a few years maybe become an assistant coach to the seniors and learn under the head coach.

If Fourie and Victor coached the Blue Bulls U19 team for the next five seasons, imagine how strong the Bulls would be in 2028. That is how it worked at schools 20 years ago – those guys would have worked their way up through the system – and that tradition is why South Africa’s big boys’ schools continue to dominate foreign schoolboy teams today.

Just because you’re a great salesman, doesn’t mean you’re a great sales manager, and I’m not sure Affies or Pietersburg Hoerskool would employ Fourie and Victor as their 1st XV head coaches. It says a lot about our rugby that they’ve got more chance of getting the Bulls job than the 1st XV job at the high schools they attended.

Buurman van Zyl, Kitch Christie and Nelie smith all coached club rugby for many years before they could coach provincially. Dawie Snyman won five Currie Cup titles, Kitch Christie won the Currie Cup and Peet Kleynhans coached Free State for years – during that time, coaches would have given their left arm to get a job with a senior provincial side.

Now I read that Brent Janse van Rensburg is thinking of going to Paarl Boys instead of the Kings, and the Lions have made their Strength & Conditioning guy the head coach of the Currie Cup team. Would they make an S&C coach the head coach of an NPC side in New Zealand? Never in a million years.

Where are our coaches? Where is the succession planning? Something doesn’t gel.

John Mitchell couldn’t get the Bulls to be successful this year. He’s got a longer CV than anyone on the Bulls shortlist and he had an 85-percent win-rate with the All Blacks.

Put in the same situation, two guys with almost no coaching experience are not going to make it because they’re going to make their coaching mistakes at the highest level instead of at high school. There’s no learning curve in senior professional rugby.

How can you have a system where a guy who has never coached leapfrogs everybody? The truth may be frightening – there probably is no system.

Why are we in that situation?

Back when the Springboks were at the top of the world rankings, you could have been a teacher for 20 years and never coached your high school’s 1st XV, because the first team coach was so entrenched.

Now we’re at the point where coaching experience is not required to be on the short-list for a Super Rugby job.

How far are we from having a Bok coach who has never coached?

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22 COMMENTS

  1. FDP & Matfield coaching would make Sweets Marais look like the Hannibal of Rugby Union.
    ZeeBull admins will employ ANY cheap scam ( Brazilian soccer away unis ) for a shortcut to glory.
    In accordance with their luciferian principals.

  2. Must say, I think he is reaching a bit far with zero experience e and how far before we have a coach at the Boks who have never coached rugby, but I agree with him. No way can you become a SuperRugby coach without earning your right to be. Junior before cc, before assistant SuperRugby coach before head coach.

  3. Question: Did the Bulls really engage with Matfield and Du Preez or was this just a media rumour. Can remember this talks even after they retired in 2015

  4. @Aldo:

    Matfield was involved with coaching as assist before IIRC? On this Site everyone believed that when the Bokke were successful und PdV (Snor) was coach that these guys were coaching it so why now the q on experience?? popcorm

  5. Oy Vey…

    Firstly the Bull’s NEVER said they are looking for FDP and Matfield to be the ‘head’ coach at the Bulls…

    The latest Bulls coaching wishlist:
    Head coach: John Dobson (Western Province); Jimmy Stonehouse (Pumas); Swys de Bruin; Ewe McKenzie (Australia)
    Attack and Backs: Dawie Snyman (WP); Fourie du Preez (Bulls)
    Forwards: Victor Matfield (Bulls), Daan Human (Cheetahs), Jaco Pienaar (Sharks)
    Defence: Johan Laker (WP); Norman Laker (WP); Paul Treu Stormers)

    Consider then that Matfield has already been involved with the Bulls and to a lesser degree there is zero reason either could start out in the above positions.

    Either JW has been misquoted or he’s totally forgotten that he selected Bernie LArkham as his backs/assistant coach for the Brumbies with zero experience and we all saw the results of that backline immediately.

  6. Matfield was also involved at the Lions for a season as lineout coach so White is talking out of his ass as usual..

    Maybe fishing for a retirement joppie

  7. Liked him as a coach, but agenda central. Why is it that every single time this guy writes an article it favour his own position?

    There is no ways FDP and Matfield need to start at schoolboy level. While I agree super level is a step too high, they’ve got a few essential qualities that most others including white simply don’t have:
    a) they’ve played under and experience many different coaches and techniques
    b) they are likely to be hugely respected by the players under them (for better or worse this makes a huge difference in having the gravitas to motivate each week)
    c) they’ve actually been there and done it on the field (not one of my requirements)
    d) in terms of PR and ppl-management skills, I don’t think this is a strength of JW at all.
    e) i suspect matfield and FDP know more about the game on and off the field than JW.

  8. @bryce_in_oz: haven’t seen that list yet. Couple of good coaches in there, but I doubt we’ll get Stonehouse, mckenzie or de bruyn. Which leaves dobson. Apparently Deon DavidS is also an option. Not getting the players he wants at Kings and they waited to long to sign, now neither their first or second options are available. This according to an agent. He has players at every franchise bar Kings.

  9. @DavidS: Matfield was at the Lions for a very short stint, but he should be good as a line out coach. Not sure about forwards coach.

  10. @Aldo:

    Yep pretty sure McKenzie wouldn’t come back to rugby outside of Australia if come back at all. No way Swys is going to leave after the 29 players showed such good faith in resigning recently. I reckon Stonehouse could be convinced but then he’s ‘just’ signed on as DOR for the Pumas. Dunno if Dobson nor Davids would be a fit but the latter certainly has more experience.

  11. @DavidS:

    During Matfield’s “assistance” as the Lions their lineout actually deteriorated, so not too sure what value he added.

  12. @bryce_in_oz:

    Unfortunately going along with this line of thinking is part of the reason why our Super sides are not in a good space.

    Why can we not get coaches with a proven track record who have paid their dues for our teams? What makes everyone just assume good players will make good coaches?

    You can count the players who took the step up immediately without any coaching experiencing on one hand, there are lots more who failed. I can think of Ackermann is one of the few success stories.
    Looking at other successful ex-players, Scott Robertson comes to mind, but he had a 5 year assistant role at Canterbury in the provincial competition, with a further 4 years as the head coach at Canterbury after that, before going to the U20s and only then moved into the Crusaders position. Someone who learned at lower levels first and went on to become very successful.

  13. Ivan Cash Van Rooyen Lions head coach this season

    Started with the Lions 2009

    Has a degree in biokinetics

    Studied with Wayne Taylor who was John Mitchell’s bud as Lions conditioning coach

    2011 Lions won CC with him as strength and conditioning coach

    2015 to 2018 Lions strongest, fittest best conditioned players in SR on stats.

    Was mentored by Mitchell and Ackermann and De Bruin and says

    ,“I am new to coaching, but I’m definitely not new to the system here at the Lions. I’ve been deeply involved in the system for years and been a part of the planning sessions … all the coaches have always been involved.

    “We’ve still got Swys around and the other coaches are also still here. For me it’s more about managing the system rather than being a coach. And, look at a guy like (Bok defence guru) Jacques Nienaber, who started out as a physio, and then did strength and conditioning, and now I rate him as the best defence coach in the world.”

    He is surrounded by SR coaches.

    So you have a 37 year old who has been in Lions structures for nine years and has a proven rack record for doing his job well ad apparently Jake White not impressed…

    By White’s standards Johan Ackermann should never have coached the Lions but here is a gigantic fuck you right there.

  14. @Craven:

    Mate I’ll say it again… FDP and Matfield are on the ‘support’ coach ‘wishlist’… not assistant coach nor head coach. No big deal… not sure why everyone is so up-in-arms.

    As an aside… Jake White himself appointed Larkham as his backs coach with zero experience, in a brand new team and they scored the most tries in the comp and went from practically last to finals in a single season and he then became head coach when White did a ‘Mitchell’ (albeit a successful one).

    O’Gara went to Racing 92 as their defence coach, with no experience and then Crusader’s assistant coach winning the title in his first year.

    O’Connell went straight to the IRE U20 as assistant coach, with no experience to Stade Francais as assistant coach.

    Brad Thorne went to Queensland Country (in the National Rugby Champs) and took them from last place to winning the title in the same year, with no experience and is now the Reds head coach.

    So in some respects I do agree with JW with respects to coach’s that have not spent a decade under top test coach’s… on the other hand…

  15. @DavidS:

    Nah mate… JW would be extremely impressed with that… but not if he went from player to Lions coach.

    They made special mention the other night on ‘Kick and Chase’ when talking about Kwagga (as a possible Bok flanker), how the Lions have been one of the fittest sides in the comp for a few years.

  16. @bryce_in_oz:

    Fair enough, but it was initially reported that they were inline for the coaching job, along with Stonehouse and Dobson. I think it is this initial report that Jake responded to.

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