Coaches, unlike players or referees, have no societies or governing bodies to enforce a clear development path and programme for them to follow, writes Benedict Chanakira

It remains an open avenue with no standards or accountability. When you think about it, anyone can pitch up at a school and coach.  All they have to do is sit through a BokSmart lecture.

Who enforces coaching protocols, rules or guidelines?  No-one. SARU can take responsibility and manage the professional environment because it is small enough. The guys coaching at schools and clubs that need to come through the ranks have nothing. The chief reason most unions employ buddies, is because there is no watchdog to check credentials.

Coaching is one of the biggest let downs in South Africa. It’s within this system that we find many of the flaws and cracks. South Africa is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to promoting a majority of ripe ex-players into high pressure coaching jobs when they aren’t good enough. It is one of the reasons South Africa has continued to slide as a rugby nation. Poor coaching.

The coaching pathways implemented by Unions are a complete farce with coaches expected to graduate through the ranks, yet very few actually go through this hierarchy. A look at the Springbok season and the poor execution of basic skills highlighted the poor coaching the players had received within the national coaching set up – error strewn performances. The coaching staff would highlight the areas that needed fixing, yet not coaching was evident with the errors being repeated. A well-coached outfit would not have repeated some of those errors.

Stone-age rugby education needs to catch up to methods used by rival sports. The balance between theoretical education and practical application, with the practical aspect taking precedence. Evaluating the competency of a coach over a day or two is simply not enough and this needs to be revised.

Data analytics has been good for the game, but requires tacticians who are able to interpret and translate the data. South Africa lost the balance between defence and attack, with an over emphasis on one or the other.

Players need to excel at the execution of basics, as they will never change in rugby. Skill needs to be able to develop and operate in the toughest conditions to be skill.

The New Zealand system is superior due to exceptional coaching structures and hammering the basics through to the top. You have level one coaches appointed as Craven Week senior team head coaches – and there is no forum or association to stop this. Each union has a referee association, a schools association (looking after player development and pathways) but coaching associations are non-existent.

If the best schools in the country are the only beneficiaries of top coaches, you are operating at just 10 percent or less efficiency. Too often you find young ‘coaches’ prowling the internet for drills, game plans and exercises to drum into the players, to the extent the young players fail to be open, adapt and genius. Set some standards on years of experience and tangible qualifying standards to coach at the highest level.

The cycle of using unqualified coaches in the field, has to stop. The UEFA set up the different levels required for club football and youth football and setting up a similar system could allow coaches to genuinely earn their stripes. This familiarizes coaches with scenarios and problems to be solved. Players have to experience the ever-changing problems in the game.

Players and referees are scouted and invested in based on performance, they are rated through competitions – the best make it to the National Youth Weeks – there is no such thing for coaches. Which is why so many of our coaches fall short and end up pointing the finger at players.

Set a limit for the age of coaches that gets selected for Craven Week, why selecting a 50 year old coach? They will be too old, start using Youth Weeks as a pathway for your top young coaches. It works for the players, that way we can build up coaches from the bottom up.

Frank Dick once said, “To ensure the wellbeing of our children through right activity and nutrition behavior, first change the behavior of those who influence them.” The essence is simple – have top coaches across the board and you will be able to have top players. Player drain won’t hurt as much.


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Stuart Lancaster, Paul Flanagan & Jose Mourinho. Coaches I look up to. Brilliant what they have taught me. Just before Maro Itoje is set to be unleashed by England the closest thing to a Victor Matfield-Bakkies Botha hybrid. Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. – Abraham Lincoln


  1. Nice article BC but I am still wondering if it is all about the coach?. Looking at the Blitzbokke, Neil Powell is obviously a good coach but do things like the leadership qualities of the captain and the senior players, the team spirit amongst the players, the speed and skillset possessed by the playmakers and their defensive and attacking structures all flow from the coach?

  2. @out wide: I believe accountability has to be high on your list as a coach. Which means the selection of the captain and leadership is on you. Get people that believe in your values and principles and let it be visible.

    Your team portrays you. You go out there and you make it happen. So yes, for me the coach sets tone i everything because he makes the key appointment and selections.

  3. True BC, but I wonder what the coach does if he doesn’t have a Francois Pienaar or a Richie McCaw in his group of players? Leaders like them cannot just be manufactured.

    Eddie Jones seems to be one of the coaches you are talking about. Inspirational and innovative – he is now getting SA’s Cheryl Calder to work on the hand-eye co-ordination skills of his squad.

  4. @out wide: Agree. One area I am looking at in SA. Lack of leaders? Do we really have leaders & can they be developed? Should coaches not look to offer players – leader of defence. Line out. Scrum, etc.

    Any skill can be developed in players I believe.

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