Hein Kriek, a former Lowvelder and Nelspruit Hoërskool matriculant, joins the Steval Pumas squad from 1 December 2015, Benedict had a chat to him
BC – You earned your stripes as a school boy and SA Schools coach. Tell us about your journey through the ranks of coaching?
HK – I started coaching in 2002 after University (BSc Honours in Sport science at the NWU in Potchefstroom) at a school in Pretoria called Gerrit Maritz High School.
At the end of 2005 I made the move to Cape Town to take the reigns at Milnerton High School. There I started realising that I could make a career out of coaching. I got the opportunity to coach my 1st provincial junior side in 2008 (WP Academy Team) and I was in the WP junior structures until the end of 2014 after my last Craven Week in Middelburg.
Milnerton High was good for me and we some great successes and success stories with players like Damien De Allende (Stormers/Springboks) and Byron McGuigan (Exeter/Scotland 7’s) coming through the ranks, but I had to take on a bigger challenge.
In this time from 2009-2012 I was also involved with Hamiltons RFC as the forwards coach where we won the National Club Champs and WP League in 2009.
I made the move to Paul Roos Gymnasium in 2012 and was at the helm of the 1st team from 2013 to the end of 2015. After a disastrous 2013 we finally found our feet and in 2014 and 2015 we were ranked number 2 in South Africa.
Hard work paid off for me on the schoolboy front and I was awarded the Head Coach position for the SA Schools side in 2014. I resigned in March 2016 due to my commitments with the Pumas. Only losing one test (vs England in 2014) made this the pinnacle of my schoolboy-coaching career.
All this accumulated in me being offered a full time position at the Pumas as assistant coach (Forwards and defence).
BC – How has the step up into the Pumas Currie Cup set up been like? What has been the biggest difference to your routines and approach?
HK – I think the step up has been good. It’s a new environment and challenge that I love. Growing up in the Lowveld and attending Nelspruit High School as a scholar helped, as it was a sort of a home coming for me.
The staff and players have been really good in accepting me and making me feel at home.
The biggest difference to my approach and routines would be that its rugby 24/7 now, and that the wheel turns double as fast as at school boy rugby level. My approach to the game has not changed though.
BC – What are your expectations for the 2016 as a team?
HK – We have a really good squad with some new faces that has joined the Pumas in the off-season. We are silently confident and very optimistic about the 2016 season. New challenges have arisen with no Vodacom Cup this year and the fact that we now again need to qualify for the Currie Cup Premier division that starts in August. That’s now our 1st goal and after the qualification we will reassess and take it form there.
BC – You coached, many a talented player in the SA Schools squads over the years. In your last group, some find themselves in the SA under 20 squad. Which two would you say are ones to keep an eye on?
HK – The following players from the 2015 SA Schools squad are in the provisional SA under 20 squad for 2016.
Stedman Gans (centre), Manie Libbok (flyhalf), Hendre Stassen (lock), Curwin Bosch (fullback), Carlű Sadie (prop), Ernst van Rhyn (flank), Zane Davids (flank)
To single out just two players would be a bit unfair as every player is worth being followed. I am sure with the right management and nurturing of talent all these players can make it all the way to the top.
BC – South Africa take part in a series against Wales and England. How beneficial is this series to South Africa. Considering the difference in approaches between SA schools and NZ schools. Has there ever been a possibility for SA to play New Zealand and Australia?
HK – The international series for the SA Schools side in August every year is vital for our SA School boys. I will be the only international rugby they taste before an u20 Junior World Cup comes their way.
The European teams play Internationals from the age of 16, so by the time they reach a JWC they are used to the pressures of international rugby.
As far as I know there has been contact with NZ and Australia regarding a series at schoolboy, but nothing came of it as yet. The management at SARU should be able to give you more info on what is planned for the future.
BC – Highlights as a coach?
HK – In 2008 winning the Medium Schools Burger Trophy Champions with Milnerton High, the following year winning the National Club Champions with Hamiltons RFC. In 2015 being the World Youth Champions with Paul Roos Gymnasium and in that same year the win over Grey College in the 150th year celebration at Paul Roos Gymnasium.
I think adding every test match I coached to this list.
BC – What has been the best school boy rugby game you have watched and why?
HK – I must single out 3 games at 3 levels here:
2013: WP vs Blue Bulls at the Craven Week in Pietersburg. Western Province fired on all cylinders and players like Thomas du Toit, Daniel du Plessis and Grant Hermanus showed just how special schoolboy rugby can be. Province won the game and ended up beating the Lions in the ‘final’.
2015: Paul Roos vs Affies at the 150th Year celebration rugby day of Paul Roos. Both teams where under tremendous pressure and the quality of rugby the boys produced under that pressure was phenomenal.
2015: SA Schools vs France in George. The French came here as European Champions and both teams played extremely good rugby. Defence won the game in the end with our boys coming out top 12-6 in a tight game.
BC – What is the importance of earning your stripes as a coach from the junior levels to the senior levels? Instead of stumbling upon the big jobs first?
HK – I would say that the biggest challenge in coaching is the management of players and the people that you work with. The technical side of the game is only one part, but how to manage people in good and bad times is the real trick! You only get to learn those things by making mistakes yourself and gaining experience.
I was lucky to have had two mentors the last few years in Brendan Venter and Dawie Snyman (Snr) that shared their wealth of knowledge with me, but nothing helps more than starting on a rainy Saturday morning with 15 schoolboys and then working your way to the top.