So who would want to be a rugby coach in South Africa today?

It’s a valid question, especially when the bulk of resources, time and effort is spent on sorting out the symptoms of rugby’s malaise, and not the underlying problems that causes them.

Think about it for a moment.

Here you are, an up and coming coach. You’ve started small, done the miles, done the accredited coaching courses and paid your dues with hours on a school or club field.

You’ve had success and slowly moved up.

And like any job in any field, there should be a career path for a bright, promising coach like you? But is there? Is there a coaching succession plan in South Africa? Whether provincial or at national level?

It is a valid question, and one that contributes so much to the emotional turmoil we go through whenever results don’t go our way.

We demonize, castigate and chase away coaches on a whim, on a result that doesn’t suit us. Never asking if the underlying situation didn’t contribute to the failure more than anything else?

In any situation like this, as in any normal job, would it not be right to ask if the correct environment was created for the coach to succeed?

But back to the young coach. How does he place faith in a system when he sees the most bizarre things happening?

When he sees a top coach like Jimmy Stonehouse unable to find work in his own country because he doesn’t see eye to eye with officials?

When he watches a national age-grade job go unfilled for almost a year, and then be filled by a coach who hasn’t been a head coach for seven years?

When he sees a coach being appointed as SA A assistant coach at the same time the players at his province have filed a grievance against him and asked him to resign? The fact that his brother is in one of the top jobs in SA Rugby is a coincidence, we are told.

That a province appoints a family member of the president as their next coach, not because he has the best credentials, but because he is there at the time. This has happened more than once.

And it may be so. The individuals involved in these examples may be good coaches, and the reasons for appointing them may well be valid, but the message that is sent out time and again fuels the conspiracy theories that so often turn out to be true in our game.

So what does a good up and coming coach do in South Africa today?

He plays the politics, and hopes that he is in the right camp at the right time when the appointment comes. He doesn’t question, heaven forbid, and often chooses a political outcome that is safe rather than revolutionizing his craft and being innovative.

He continues to wait, as ex-players are brought into higher coaching positions because of their contacts and inability to craft a life outside rugby for themselves. And he continues to give all to the game he loves.

Is it any wonder then that when these coaches are put under pressure, often by factors outside their control, that they act in their own best interests.

After all, other than in other nations, they have been left to fend for themselves, have had to often force their way ahead not by results but by choosing political partners at inopportune times to keep their jobs.

They know that a string of bad results, even two consecutive losses, may cost them their jobs in a world where logic often fails and patience is non-existent.

So when a call is made to put the Boks first, to sacrifice personal ambitions for the greater cause, it is often undermined.

And can we blame them?

The lack of a coaching succession plan – both at provincial and national levels in SA – has a direct correlation to the chaos we often find in our rugby.

Instead of stability and proven track records, we lurch from the one candidate to the next, and then look for ways to fire them as soon as they take charge.

We saddle them with a management team that is politically based (and here I don’t mean transformation) and we expect them to perform against the best in the business.

South African coaches have so many more issues to deal with than just selecting a team and crafting a game plan, is it any wonder they struggle when pitted against professional outfits that eat, sleep and drink success, and do everything to achieve it?

We desperately need to change this picture. We need to place trust in coaching structures, develop patience and remove the obstacles we put in coaches paths.

We need to allow young talented coaches to develop and find places in higher structures because they are good, not because of who they know.

And we need to do it soon, or nothing will ever change.

So I ask again, who would want to be a young coach in SA today?

By Brenden Nel for 


  1. Ag cry me a river.

    Coaching at a professional level is about getting results. If you want to coach in a low-paid job just for the love of the game, then you get leniency. But not if you can’t act professionally. It’s probably the most important job.

    Do you think a CEO is Leo on if he’s company is underperforming? How long do you think a roundball coach would last?

    If you want the big bucks then that is the trade off. Old toetie made more money in 1 shitarse year then most South Africans will ever make in their whole lives. What a load of nonsense. Maak skoon. Boks deserve the best, not the worst.

  2. can’t act = coach

    Bottomline – if you’re coaching professionally, you carry the can. That is the deal, no one gives a poep about the environment or support network or excuses.

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