Home #LoveRugby Coaching rugby is not playing rugby…

Coaching rugby is not playing rugby…


Coaching in South Africa and many other roles in rugby have laid out a perception that roles are only reserved for ex-provincial or international players, writes Benedict Chanakira 


This past week Tiaan Liebenberg was appointment by CUT as the new head coach in a perplexing move considering he does not even hold a Boksmart certificate, let alone he just retired from the game.

Now, he could turn into a world beater as a coach but this continues to highlight the fracture in a system that must reward working your way from the bottom-up instead of the ‘privilege’ of having an aura and reputation of being an ex-player.

South Africa produces the most coaches in the world, quantity that is, however there is a worrying lack of quality.

The very best coaches in the world never had jaw dropping international careers. Jake White, Steve Hansen, Rod Macqueen.

Is it time we realize the art of coaching requires the same level of dedication, practice and preparation as players?

investec-international-rugby-academy-trainingMatthew Syed wrote something mind blowing; “….Why do we assume that former players can seamlessly move into coaching roles? Terry (footballer) was, in his way, a terrific defender, but that doesn’t mean that he would be terrific at guiding and mentoring young players.

This requires a different set of skills; skills that enable high-level performers to share their knowledge, to inspire players, to build teams, rather than merely being team members. The problem is that many top players assume that coaching is easy.

They take their brilliance as performers as prima facie evidence of their ability to coach. This is precisely why so many are reluctant to do their badges: they think it is beneath them. As Steven Gerrard put it: “I know many, many players who reach the end of their careers and get handed a C license pack which is about four inches thick and say, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that.’….”

The reality is we do not have world beating coaches yest in South Africa and maybe it’s time to dive into uncharted territory, look long-term and pocket our pride.

South African rugby does not have all the answers and there should be an initiative from unions to look at other avenues for assistance and insight.

Most coaches in the country remain one dimensional or not up to scratch in their deployment of tactics especially when they have to compete globally. Franco Smith’s adventure in Italy plays a part in how he has possibly developed a winning blue-print. His involvement abroad has broadened, added some knowledge and given him experience.

gettyimages-491111140The efforts of Carlos Spencer and John Mitchell at the Lions must not be under-estimated, the influence of John Plumtree and Chris Boyd at the Hurricanes who gained valuable insight in South Africa and the latter in Ireland as well.

Approaches that transformed the Hurricanes, especially their forward pack. Stuart Lancaster failed dismally at the World Cup and went on a coaching adventure- from the NFL, to Super rugby franchise the Stormers and now at Leinster.

Eddie Jones is an Australian coaching the English, who learnt from soccer manager Pep Guardiola and assisted in South Africa.

Coaching is an adventure, it’s time South African coaches have an adventure before being thrust into the cauldrons of hell.

To produce world beating coaches, we need to hire people who have invested in the trade and not solely on the reputation of being a star on the field.


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  1. Nice article BC and although I agree, I reckon past players could become great coaches if they invest time in studying the art. They know what pressure entails at top level, so just need to be trained in the finer arts.

    What is interesting, is that some of our best coaches, were school coaches first. You can’t coach bulletjie rugby without completing bok smart, how can Tiaan walk into a role without that is a big question

  2. Could also point out that a good ex captain do not automatically make for a good CEO but that would be stating the obvious.

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