South Africans by now are used to the four year cycle they go through with every coach. The coaching box is renewed every four years post World Cup seemingly with little regard to the past achievements of coach and team alike.
Many would argue that out of all the coaches to have been in charge of the Bokke in recent times, Jake White would have deserved a second shot the most considering the fact that he won a World Cup. After the Springbok year of 2015 which included losses to both Argentina and Japan it was rumored that Heyneke Meyer would be getting the ever sought after second chance. However this was not the case, whether it was down to public outcry or a mere dissatisfaction on the part of SARU we will never know.
The decision of SARU to do away with Heyneke Meyer may have put many fans at ease however one must look at the current situation and wonder if it really was the right choice. Many expected a new coach to be put in charge fairly quickly so that he could get the planning for the next four years started. This was however not the case. It is now mid-March and the team is still rudderless, players and fans alike have little knowledge about the road ahead and certainly this does not bode well for the Bokke.
The Springboks open their test season in June with three tests against Ireland. There is little more than two months to go until the first test kicks off in Cape Town. For the moment the panic hasn’t set in and although Ireland hasn’t looked up to scratch in the Six Nations, it would be unwise to underestimate them. Ireland has a fairly settled team and could just snatch the favorite tag if the Bokke don’t get back on track. This sentiment was recently spoken of by CJ Stander as he spoke about the Springboks underestimating Ireland after their Six Nations showing.
Looking into the coaching problems a little deeper may just make one realise there is quite a serious problem on our hands. The lack of continuity in the Springbok camp when it comes to the coaches could be indicative of the neglect to coaching structure within the broader framework of the country. Coaching tactics and techniques are not readily shared in SA and this shows every year when Super Rugby rolls around. Each team sets out on its own course and it is very difficult to trace similarities between any of them. Imagine the possibility if the Stormers defensive principles were shared with the Cheetahs flair or the Lions strengths on attack.
Each union stands on its own, putting its interests ahead of the national cause and rather than sharing and improving, are seemingly content on being second to the kiwis. All the coaching courses through World Rugby are ineffectual in the long run, true success lies in the ability to share ideas and challenge one another intellectually on one of the many different coaching theories or methods. Coaching structures need to be put in place that rewards both loyalty to the cause as well as innovation and a proven track record. Starting over every four years is definitely one of the reasons the Bokke are currently shadowed by the All Blacks.
If one looks at the All Blacks, they had a coach lead them to a World Cup victory in 2011. Thereafter Graham Henry handed the reigns over to his assistant Steve Hansen. One need only look at the evolution of the team since then. Their game plan never changed, it just became more effective and the players were constantly improving as they became more comfortable with their roles in the team. A look at the New Zealand Super Rugby sides and one sees a similar trend. All of the teams seem to play off the same basic game plan with their own small tweaks added in. This lends to both a stronger All Blacks but also a very exciting brand of play that everyone is comfortable with from the base up.
It is said that the Bok coach will be named in early April, here is hoping SARU used this time to analyse the bigger problems they face and come up with a plan to bring back consistency to the countries beloved green and gold. The first step in the right direction would be to set up a proper coaching framework within the country.
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” – John C. Maxwell
Written by Nicholas Halsey