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SA Rugby failure down to coaching or players?

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Written by: Benedict Chanakira (BC)

 

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UK writer Alex Shaw was at hand to have a look at how the English are making use of their talent pool and Stuart Lancaster was part of a failed England World Cup campaign at home, one good thing among many to come out of his beleaguered tenure has been the desire to rebuild the English squad.

Whether he continues or there will be a successor to his role, he has managed to bring through some of the Junior World Cup players from the England u20’s in the last three year (2013, 2014 & 2015).

England’s junior structures have been the best in the world and has seen them win two and lose one narrowly. With New Zealand the benchmark for transition of players, talent and style of play the Poms managed to close the gap and have made considerable yards in bringing through their talent.

Only time will tell how good they can actually get. Of the 72 players used by England in the last three junior World Cups, 11 (15, 3 %) are regulars in their premium competition while 17 (23, 6%) are semi-regular players who have the occasional start and bench appearance with 4 of the England players have been capped in this period.

It brought about the question, how much of the talent in South Africa is being brought through the ranks?

While a score of our players are featuring n the Currie Cup, the gap has been rather telling when it comes to Super Rugby and Test rugby graduation. Between 2011 and 2015, there has been some movement.

A huge pat on the back for SARU who have made a massive effort to integrate as many players as possible from Community Cup, Varsity Cup, Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Super Rugby.  Somehow very few of our players have managed to step up to the highest level.

Is this a matter of quantity with no quality? Is there a lack of trust with our coaches that inhibits the coming through of junior stars touted for greatness?

South Africa seems to have an obsession with experience, veterans and a regressing style of play.

  1. Coaching? Is the standard so low?

You see to say South Africa has no quality coaches is false. South has ample coaches and some who will not get opportunities due to various reasons. I would say the wrong coaches have had the opportunity to be at the helm in most Unions, while some are inhibited by culture, systems and when you are expected to win, you prefer to stay in a shell instead of giving it a go.Steve_Hansen50

For years the kick and chase game plan has been effective. To disagree would be foolishness.

To have won the World Cup, a Tri-Nations, and British & Irish Lions series is proof of its rewards. What we have to then admit is with time things get out dated. Like software you need to keep updating to not just keep up, but to be able to be more effective.

What has kept the All Blacks ahead has been variation, surprise and evolution. Always ahead of the rest of the world.  To quote a wise man, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

The All Blacks kick ball away, they even kick turnover ball. The World Cup final will tell you. We never dispute the kicking aspect of a team. What is different is the execution, and variety in their attack. The different running lines and the innovation at line out time. Instead of a driving maul they will do a move that catches even the best by surprise. The coaching in our country need to step it up, get fresh ideas from others and be willing to add a little bit of surprise to how the team plays.

The Lions had the touch of a Kiwi for several years and this allowed them to adopt a brand of rugby that attracts the crowds and has been rewarding with them offering surprise and the ability to not just stick to one thing but use a variety of skills.

The Stormers are expected to smarten up with Eddie Jones involved. The Blue Bulls and Cheetahs have now taken a huge step as they back youth, a new coach and a new way of playing.

Super Rugby will be defining, but time will need to be given to these men to walk their course. An entity afforded to the unions.

The next Springbok coach needs to come from this bunch at least, to have South Africa breed multi-dimensional, innovative coaches. Ever Heyneke Meyer deemed the best in South Africa failed miserably, instead setting some unwanted records in his Bok role.

At this moment, the best and proven coaches in South Africa are either in studios, left to coach junior teams without recognition, on their farms or at home.

A new generation is set to begin and it is paramount that coaches or unions change their mind sets, approach and adopt with the times.

  1. Players? Are they not skilful enough?

Ungrateful and an unwillingness to use all talent well because we have so much?

It’s a business and it is all about the money, our systems allow us to have players playing through six competitions. Varsity competitions, Club competitions and to a large extent the Vodacom, Currie Cup and Super Rugby.

Jesse_Kriel_v_Cheetahs_SR_warm-up_2015_Blue_Bulls_620_395_s_c1_top_topThe same players that display great skill can’t get snuffed out a year or two later. What is the cause?

Add the flurry of competitions at school level and junior stage you can’t deny the players are playing. The question should be, are our players not good enough or do our coaches have limitations?

I had a chat with one of the coaches that will remain unnamed  and who works in a major union in our country and they relayed this, “Some of the players just wilt under pressure, the pressure at the highest level has led to players revealing technique, mental flaws and the athlete’s abilities coming short.

With the gap between Currie Cup and Super Rugby getting bigger the step up is even bigger.” When questioned about coaches.. “There is a show of the coaches’ insecurity and the pressure has increased compared to the levels below. It seems there is a fear aspect among many coaches and the emphasis on winning means the taking chances and gambles is just not on the cards.”

Between the 2011 – 2015 New Zealand U20 players have been afforded a debut on 15 occasions and six have managed to win the latest Rugby World Cup and one won the World Rugby player gong (Brodie Retallick) as Alex Shaw notes.

It has been difficult to break into this AB side but it will be interesting to see how New Zealand responds post the golden generation. Lima Sopoaga was trusted to start against South Africa in this years’ Rugby Championship, which was bold move that paid off. What must be highlighted also is that only one player got a debut in the NZ classes of 2013-2015.  South Africa on the flip side has just managed 11 players with five featuring at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Are we scared to move on from our trusted campaigners or we must cling on as our players just aren’t good enough?

Failure to step up to Super Rugby means the Springbok coach can’t select players not playing there. There has been a total of 138 players used in the last 5 junior World Cups. Out of that, only 7.9 % (11) are capped players; 13.8% (19) play regular Super Rugby enough to be considered for national duty); the rest are either playing Currie Cup, Vodacom Cup- Varsity Cup/Shield, Currie Cup division or Junior Currie Cup.

So around thirty of the players have managed to step up to the big time having featured in the SA u20 ranks.

Are the earmarked Springboks just not good enough, or is the player/coach base questionable?

Considering New Zealand have less than half the players we have makes it even more puzzling. Does it mean the best really are not being selected when just under 22% are making a shout compared to New Zealand who have just over 26%? This is all based on information available.

The gap is telling and begs the question, is it the coaches, the players or both? From what I have heard from there players I had a chat to, there is a lack of trust an belief in some of the players, while some coaches are inclined to stick to a system that has worked in the past.

Do we have a solution? Only time will tell. Players such as Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Dan Kriel has yet to find their feet among many players who are yet to stake a claim. The biggest shock has been the failure for Steven Kitsoff to get a national cap, with him being one of the best loose heads in the country in the last two seasons.

2016 is the beginning of an important stage in SA Rugby, for a country swamped with talent there needs to be a higher turnover in junior stars into test stars.

Will we see more of our young stars step up? It’s all down to the coaches and they must show their hand, equip our players and be willing to think outside the box. Investment into the players early on will warrant a reaction.

The Stormers, Blue Bulls and Cheetahs Unions have been at hand to produce the most Springboks in the last four years. Majority of them young, exciting stars.

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47 COMMENTS

  1. hmmm… Not enough good Players? Why do other countries want them then??
    Ireland: CJ Stander, Richard Strauss,
    Scotland: WP Nel, Josh Strauss
    France: Spedding, Van Zyl, Kokott
    England: Barret, Botha
    sure i missed a few more…

  2. @Boertjie: agree. Most would not be good enough. Look at the England duo, may never play for them again. Botha could not even play for the Sharks in their worst state. What i can say is Stander woul be good enough to play in SA and is one of the best 8’s in the northern hemisphere.

  3. @Jacques (Bunny): Thor is the best in the world arguably. Problem is we have one 8 in SA to be honest. Whiteley is deemed not good enough by Meyer and thats about it.

  4. Tera? Injury prone. Hoping he gets game time and stays fit. A leader and quality player.

  5. Rubbish. Stander could have been Bok captain and will make our team. Problem is we rate a player like Duane but will never ask why he cannot link with his backline. So what is an 8 then? Just another basher? 8 links with 9.

    Strauss also good enough but he passes the ball. See above.

    Nel I always rated. Then again he likes to play with the ball and does not just bash.

  6. Instead we had spies and jj engebrecht and Botha and other such clowns who would not make Scotland team.

  7. @Cheetah Glory: Duane is not one dimensional . I would have to disagree. If it is Read touted the best 8, Duane is a close second. He has shown this on many occassions. Breakdown prowess, tackles, offloads and carries.

    Stander coud have played Boks but he was at the Bulls and they had Spies as Captain. If you dont play SR, you wont play Boks. Thor is one of the best in the world.

  8. Bunny –
    Dig your new thematic avatar.
    CG-
    Peter Drucker is the bees knees of mgt theory & practice & I think this big maxim of his applies to Duane Vermuleun ( I would rather DV be DV anyday over K Read).
    It also though applies to SA generally in terms of their play ( David S would probably agree on this part of Drucker).
    It’s also a reason I think the SunKing should go back to wing vs FB.
    Here it is:
    http://www.druckerinstitute.com/2011/12/tackling-weakness/

  9. Closing line from link above:

    “The trick is to make those results significant enough to render your weaknesses manageable and even irrelevant. “Tim Tebow never, ever makes everybody happy,” the Wall Street Journal concludes. “He can’t really do anything besides win football games. Since when did anyone care about that?”

  10. Yessus bunny is looking quite good in pink.

    Plumtree pretty good coach but mitchell the best IMO. If not mitchell – the only coach that will get the boks playing at next level is mallett.

  11. Can Meyer not serve at the Bulls instead?

    That way everyone happy as a pig in the kak and noone has to give up anything. please God let these coaching gurus take the kicking and the stats elsewhere. Avtually the Bulls are starting too look good again with XV-man rugby but let them use meyers blueprint of ou doos rugby with the tactical skopwerk – daar gaat hy. Another skop.

  12. @Boertjie:

    Gebruik Google Translate.

    Bv.

    Hy sê

    Peter Drucker is die bye knieë van MGT teorie & praktyk & Ek dink dit groot maxim van sy geld vir Duane Vermuleun (Ek sou eerder DV be DV anyday oor K Read) . Dit is ook al van toepassing op SA algemeen in terme van hul spel (David S sou waarskynlik saamstem oor hierdie deel van Drucker ) . Dit is ook ‘n rede dink ek die SunKing moet terug te gaan na die vleuel vs FB

    en verder

    Die truuk is om die resultate beduidend genoeg om jou swakhede hanteerbare en selfs irrelevant maak . ” Tim Tebow nooit, ooit maak almal gelukkig ,” het die Wall Street Journal afgesluit. “Hy kan nie regtig iets anders oorwinning sokker gespeel nie. Sedert wanneer het iemand omgee dat

    en jy sê:

    uck , man , I’m the only one who can never understand what the man above say?

    Maak nou meer sense nê?

  13. Timeo
    CG wanted Vermuleun to be more like Kieran Reid with his linking to outside backs & running vs his style of play that’s more confrontational to tacklers with ball in hand.
    So the question is – with DV being so good at playing how he does currently, would it be a good use of him time to try to “be more like Kieran Read” or try to enhance what he’s already good at.

    A famous take of Peter Drucker is to quit trying to always focus & work on your ( or an organizations) perceived “deficits” & instead enhance your strengths – to be so overwhelmingly good at them that it nullifys them.
    He’s doesn’t believe that its a good use of time to be trying to be something you’re not at the expense of fortifying your strengths. You still pay heed to the deficits….but just enough to make them manageable because the real upside is enhancing in what you are already very good at.

    In the case of SA rugby. This would mean doubling-down on test match rugby – i.e. the kind like that was on display vs NZ – BUT – not doing so without deft tactical/positional kicking which Handy Pollard/MWLR pretty much lacked throughout the tournament.
    Winning lineouts etc.

    When applied to MWLR – it would be – put him at wing & allow him to interject throughout the game WITHOUT the positional defensive & kicking burdens inherent in the role of #15.

  14. This article seems like another attempt to try and market Hak Hak the Kak Bok coach. Is it not the job of the coach to *gasp* COACH his team (individually and collectively)? And is this not why Hak Hak has a shitload of his buddies on the gravy train as consultants? If you think the role of the Bok coach is just to “manage” a group of extremely fit and skillful players – then why pay him R5m per year???
    And if we just resign to the fact that our players are shit: Why then did you shout for Toetie to take his snoetie and fokof? And why did the cows not keep Fransie as coach – it was not his fault after all that their tight five got stuck in reverse gear? And why the criticism on Gold (the anti-King Midas)? Come on people: Just face it: Hak Hak is a KAK coach / manager / motivator / speaker / selector / strategist / ……… (fill in the blanks)

  15. @cab: Cab, he can gladly come and “serve” at Province – serve the drinks to a genuine coach that is! Then he can jump up and down with excitement when Eddie takes a sip!

  16. @Bekke: Nobody is marketing Meyer Bekke, I am sure of that, but everyone is worried about the state of our rugby….I actually thought this was a great piece from BC….

    If one can not see the deeper sickness in our rugby then I am really worried….

  17. The sickness is far deeper – look at the pathetic way we pick talent at school level – and the amount of youngsters leaving rugby or take their trade overseas, BEFORE they even have made a name for themselves. But to pose this problem against coaching??? Come on!!! Our problem is training, selection, management, strategic investment, etc – but individual skills is actually least of our worries (apart from the coaching of team specific skills – like getting the ball back from kick offs; or managing forwards out of the backline). Our coaching under Hak Hak has went a long way to reduce the skill level of talented individuals to plonkers and bashers in the national set up. Just look at Lood – he was reduced to our key mid-field tackler.

  18. @Bekke: You need to go and have a look what Rassie have done with the youth system in our country and the work they do in developing that, you would be surprise to see.

    In SA and even worst in our youth system you have a King on every rugby field ruling his kingdom with no regard to the collective goal there should be….

    You ask why are some of blame our coaching in SA?

    Because we can see how a proper coach can change a team and that we have not seen for plenty of years in all forms of the game….

    Why does a Pote Human have success with a Griquas team but Hawies Fourie can not win a game even if he buy it?

    Because like a player a coach is not great from day one, it is a process and I believe we fail in this progress and our young coaches do not have enough role models to learn from.

    Dobson must be the coach with the biggest smile in SA at the moment to have Jones for the next year to tap from and learn, he will come out as a even better coach and will develop

    The Micthell haters can say what they want but Ackers success is part of the fact that he had Mitchell there to learn from.

    Meyer success in SR with Bulls?

    Mallett was his mentor and he was able to pick his brain and the same with Jake.

    But like I said forget one moment your hate for Meyer as you and Duiwel have shown us for the past two years and see what is in front of you.

    I do not know of one person on this site that came out yet and say straight up they want Meyer to be coach for the next 4 years.

    What was said was if not Meyer then who and other questions on why SA Rugby!!! not just Springbok rugby is in shit.

    You dislike Meyer, we get that but let’s look at what other problems there are excluding Meyer and all his shit he have done the past two years with Springbok rugby

  19. Yes, I have heard a lot of stories about Rassie (the man who could not handle the pressure of a coach role) and even Hak Hak having multiple sit-downs with school and provincial structures. But all those stories suddenly dried up when their fans are looking for excuses – it’s all the provincial coaches fault now, isn’t it?
    I get your point about some coaches get things done with same players, while others don’t. It will make for an interesting study one day (e.g. why was Kobus van der Merwe so highly rated by Nick Mallet, but had no success at Province?). We also have to add the different dynamics in SA where players are spoiled and have enormous power when the coach interfere with their golf handicap. I never get the sense that the NZ coaches tolerate any player nonsense, but here idiots like the Du Plessis Waltons can get White fired from the sardines.

  20. @Jacques (Bunny): You are also right about my dislike for Hak Hak – he is a werfetter! Incidentally the same type of werfetter than Robert du Preez, who has joined the sardines for next year! The latter was a coward too scared to do military service – he nearly pissed his pants when he was told the alternative to joins the SAPS. He is of the same “kick a player at the base of the ruck” type than the other great example of Gentleman-ship: Earl Rose.

  21. @Bekke: WP Rugby is a demon on it’s own, you can blame no coach with success or failure in that political driven institute and I am not talking ANC I am talking internal shit….

    Most difficult job to do I think after a Springbok coach so good luck to Eddie lets see how long he last in there…

    But Oom Gert should be able to help him with this shit politics in WP Rugby

  22. Bunny what I am trying to say is that in the future we cannot just hail a Vermeulen yet allow him to continue making kak passes or generally not being able to see options out wide.

    Ditto the Bismarks and other ‘ysters’.

    Yes its all good and well having a high workrate on defence but it counts for little of you butcher attacking opportunities.

    You talk about ‘kings’ on the rugby field? Enter one Heyneke Meyer who built his Bulls dynasty around Anton Leonard – a typical school big kid who slowly takes every ball up without a care for whats on outside. Meyer jumped through the roof when Vermeulen showed himself to be the perfect big boy.

    Vermeulen can be a better player but the Bok system does not demand it from him. Its ok for him to not develop more arrows. And thats my gripe.

  23. In the same pack, Sergio Parisse will outshine both Read and Vermeulen. He has very few weaknesses apart from trying to do too much. Power game, great defence and a rocket of a pass – not to mention deft offloads and a chip-kick.

    But in SA none of this matters as long as you can bliksem into the first defender. Do so all game long and we call you an yster.

  24. No one is defending Meyer here. We are saying the SA u20 players have failed to properly step up. Our coaching is one dimensional because of limitations and fear.

    Our players are negated by selection and coaching instructions. While some have failed to properly step up. Some have ailed to even get to SR whether it is coaching or their own ability.

    Cheetah Glory – Are you serious?

  25. Everyone entitled to their opinion on Meyer – but there are some key issues:

    – a loss to Japan (automatic hari kiri)
    – no trophies in 4 years
    – 1 win v ABs in 4 years
    – but the worst is the negative ou toppie mindset in player selection and micro-managed gameplan. Yes the boks need a coach who gets the basics right – there I have no complaints – but this containment strategy rather than playing rughtvto score tries has no place on a rugby field or anywhere else.

  26. @Cheetah Glory: Stade Francais man. watch him plenty. He is god but Thor is no one trick pony. Plus we are basing Sergio’s brilliance on history. Off form now and has been injured.

  27. Check out this Sunny-Bill-esque offload ( a bounce skip pass no less) by Duane Vermuleun……
    To none other than :
    The Messerschmitt Willie-LeRoux
    Playing his best position for offensive potency……WING

  28. Sergio is good but look at 2013, 2014 & 2015 SR. The tests between SA & NZ. Tell me all Thor does is bash it up. In fact Thor could be one of the few all round 8’s in he world. Some will lack. Add the limitations put upon our player by HM & you have an unknown element.

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