By: Jacques Nortier
As we go into 2016 without a replacement for Meyer as Springbok coach, many names have been popping up in the media the last couple of months.
Supporters does not like this waiting game and especially over the festive season when there is nothing much going on in sporting wise in the south. Most expect that SARU will start the New Year with some urgency to find the next Springbok coach that can take the team to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The year 2015 was not a good year for South African coaches and the one’s that still have a job either can count themselves lucky or was good enough to keep there jobs.
Even at the start of the Super Rugby season Stormers and Western Province coach Allister Coetzee announce that he will part ways with the union to join his new club in Japan. Although it was not that a big shock to see Coetzee leaving, it still left Western Province to find a new coach that can take the team in a new direction and era.
Before the end of the Super Rugby competition Naka Drotske asked the Cheetahs to release him from his contract which they did. One had to feel sorry for Drotske in some was as he had to cope with plenty injuries during the year to key players, which saw them end twelve on the overall log and last in the South African conference.
The other disappointment for South African supporters in the Super Rugby was the Bulls under Frans Ludeke. They have been struggling for a few years now and as one of the franchises with the most talented youth players in their union, one expected much more than what Ludeke and his team dished up this year. Looking back at it all you can actually see some similarities between Ludeke and Meyer on their respective falls from grace as both decided to go with old and trusted rather than the young and excited.
Someone once told me that he will rather take a lost with exciting young players that try think outside the box sometimes than the older players that are set in their ways.
Well at the end of the Super Rugby tournament we saw the end of Coetzee, Ludeke and Drotske but that would not be the end as Meyer choose to fall on his own sword rather than get it from SARU in December.
That left us with the question who should be consider as the new Springbok coach?
There are actually two ways of looking at this…
One can go and think we have serious problems in South Africa and the need for a foreign coach could be the option or one can trust what we have and look at someone that knows our culture and game to take it to the next level.(by the way I rather pick option two and this is why….)
With a great effort that will be put towards transformation at all levels in our sport we need to have someone that understand the dynamics that is South Africa, with a great knowledge of our people, players and politics which play a major role in our sport. It has been proven time after time that the South African game that is being played is not much different than what the All Blacks play in making them the greatest team on earth today.
Developing the skills within our players need to be playing a much bigger role than trying to change the way South Africa play the game and in my mind a South African coach will be better equipped to work with young talent which he knows and can develop.
So if we do go for a South African coach who do we look at?
A genius of his generation and beyond is how I see Erasmus who has more than once shown how great a thinker of the game he really is. If I think about Erasmus and rugby I think about Doc Craven as the passion and pure greatness of the man is similar from what I knew about Doc.
Rassie has been a great rugby mind even in his playing days and was always trying to improve the skills and ways players think and play on the field. Erasmus had immediate success at the Cheetahs in his early days as coach and looking back at that you can just admire the person ability to think outside the box in every sense of the way. Rassie has been involved in developing and putting down the “Blue Print” for South African rugby the last couple of years and nobody in South Africa knows the young generation better than Erasmus.
The one thing that have always excites me about Erasmus was the fact that you never knew what to expect from him as a player, as a coach or as a player that have been coach by him.
Venter is a no nonsense guy and for some reason I still like the old school of coaching where players are play the game and coaches coach the team. In some way I feel in South Africa we need strong coaches that do not take the crap from pre-madonna’s in a team and if one look back at our coaches since ’95 one will see the success of Springbok teams happened with strong non nonsense coaches like Oom Kitch, Nick and Jake.
Venter have proven himself as a coach and as a man that knows how to get the best out of players and sometimes get the worst out of governing bodies and referees. He has have success with Saracens in the UK and with limited time change a Sharks team to win a surprising Currie Cup final against Western Province at Newlands a few years ago.
Venter does it his way or players can take the highway which is something you sometimes need in a team if you are sitting were South African rugby are sitting at the moment. In difficult times the leaders stands out and Venter have proven that he is a leader than can take on any challenge.
The third name in my hat will be Johan Ackerman …..
Now I know many will say he needs a few years to develop still and he will get his chance but in a coach life things can change pretty fast. I am a great believer in given our national coach a two year stint rather than this World Cup to World Cup thing we do in South Africa.
With Johan Ackerman we have a young promising coach that have done things differently than any other coach in the Republic and it worked. From being booted out of Super Rugby, the Lions and Golden Lions have come back better and stronger under the coaching of Ackerman and De Bruin.
This opportunity will be a perfect time to give a young coach the opportunity to grow if he is surrounded with some experience heads as his assistance. He will be able to build a team of players that can take Springbok rugby forward and as one of the coaches who has excel in transformation at his union, one would expect Ackerman to be able to get to the goals SARU will set for the new coach in the strive for transformation as well.
If Ackerman is to be the next coach for the Springboks, one will have to give him eight years to develop the team and the players which will enable him not just to rebuild Springbok rugby now but also to develop the next generation.
To just bring a foreign coach in and think he will adapt to South African culture and our players is a far fetch idea.
John is another of those coaches I grew up with that coach a team and not been coach too coach a team. One of the biggest challenges that the new coach will face when he taking over the Springboks, will be to make sure that SARU and Government are happy with the progress of getting our players of colour through the system and on the field, and John knows what is expected from a coach to achieve this.
He knows the players our systems with our strengths and weaknesses which will make him ideal to develop our players.
Why do I not have Allister Coetzee in my mix?
It is quite simple, in nine years of coaching Western Province and the Stormers all Coetzee can show is a few Currie Cup trophies and Super Rugby conference trophies. The main reason everyone wanted Meyer out was because he had no trophies and one victory over the All Blacks in four years.
We need a coach that can do more than what Meyer did and Coetzee is someone you will replace Meyer with exactly the same. Springbok rugby needs people that are winners and that can stay winners for longer than just one Saturday afternoon every other month.
What SARU will do in 2016 with identifying and appointing the new coach is a mystery and as time goes on more people will throw names around, but at the end of the day whoever gets the job needs to bring Springbok rugby back to winning ways and be a force in world rugby once again.