Stuff it, I say. Forget this hogwash about him not being ready for the job. Let’s make Lions coach Johan Ackermann the Bok coach right now. And while, we are at it, let’s also make Lions 8th man and skipper Warren Whiteley the captain of the Bok side.
Those of us that get frustrated with coaches hanging onto players that are past their prime push the old “If he is good enough, he is old enough” line when advocating the selection of young and exciting players, so why should it be any different when it comes to coaches?
Yes, this from an oke who has long underestimated the men from Jozi … Apologies.
But it renders me unprone to making irrational and sudden decisions. Sure the sensational victory in Hamilton last weekend has influenced my thinking, but what has been brewing in Braamfontein has been a long time coming.
And while it may have taken some time for the lightbulb to go on, and perhaps what is on the table as an alternative Bok coaching option has also influenced my thinking, but I am now properly convinced that this is the way forward.
The man has been named South Africa’s coach of the year for the last two years in a row. Do we actually need anything more than that? If so, are we admitting that what we have at home is not good enough?
It started in Super Rugby last year where the Lions won 9 of their 16 games, the same number as the quarter finalist Brumbies. They were in the top 8 of the tournament for try assists, defenders beaten, turnovers, and offloads, and starting to play a brand of rugby that made them not only watchable, but winners as well.
And then in last year’s Currie Cup, the Lions were unbeaten and lead the tournament stats in metres run, passes, carries, tries, clean breaks, defenders beaten, offloads and turnovers. Ball in hand, exciting, unbeatable rugby. Yes the Currie Cup is of an inferior level to Super Rugby, and yes the Lions were the least hurt by national call ups, but Ackermann and his team still had to go out and do the business.
Fans and media alike were frustrated with the losses to Japan and Argentina last year, but a massive factor in the purging of Heyneke Meyer was his refusal to take the Springbok brand of rugby out of the dark ages. Plan A seemed to see Schalk Burger at 10, while Plan B seemed to see Duane Vermeulen at 12 taking a pass from Burger at 10. This while the New Zealanders were launching their second phase off ball recycled by a wing or outside centre way out near the touchline.
Is Allister Coetzee, an affable man with rugby in his blood, but also the man who made the Stormers famous for being the “Wall of Cape Town” such was the Fort Knox like state of their defence, and the man who could get the Bok-laden Stormers to the playoffs but no further, really the man to break Springbok rugby free of the laager laden shackles that currently hold it back?
In an era when all coaches have access to great assistants and the latest player stats and match analytics, it is the coach that brings the human factor to the party who excels. Ackermann, together with Whiteley, have that in spades.
It also speaks to rewarding those that choose to ply their trade here in South Africa. As one who would implement the Kiwi policy of only picking locally based players, this strikes a chord close to my heart.
Lots has been said about the lack of a coaching development pipeline here in SA, and the fact that 4 of the 6 Super Rugby franchises are being coached by new comers to the tournament. But how do we encourage coaches to enter the pipeline if we are not rewarding people that come out of it?
Let’s be brave. Let’s be bold. Let’s appoint that best that SA has to offer right now. He’s earned it.