A tough and challenging job awaits the man who picks up the coach’s jacket after Allister Coetzee, regardless of where the benchmark has been left. As SARU and all involved bodies run to pick Coetzee’s successor, and one they hope will bring success to the Springboks, the eyes of fans and experts alike will fall on a few familiar and less-familiar names.
Whoever is chosen, he will do well to tick the following boxes to ease questions around a possible turnaround strategy…
Will the 30-Test rule, which allows only those players who’ve played in 30 Tests to come into consideration for the national side?
It was brought in to help stop younger players from moving abroad, but it has done little to halt the migration.
It is a professional era and one wonders if South African rugby isn’t doing more harm to its biggest brand – the Boks – by stopping the coach from picking whoever he wants. The best players, regardless of where they play, should run out for the Boks.
Should the next Bok coach be keen to pick a few overseas-based men to give the team a greater edge, one would think these picks would include the likes of Faf de Klerk, Vincent Koch and maybe even Ruan Ackermann, who all play abroad, but haven’t hit the 30-Test mark.
Every coach has his favourites, and when it comes to the man tasked to lead the side, it is imperative that the coach and he gel and work closely together.
Under Coetzee, Adriaan Strauss led the team in 2016, then Warren Whiteley took over in 2017, only to be side-lined with injury, allowing Eben Etzebeth to lead.
Yet, the new coach will have to think of all this and a concern surrounding consistency. With the continuous change of captains, the team could suffer further.
This will prove difficult as there are a few natural choices, such as Siya Kolisi and Warren Whiteley, but the current captain has forged his path and has kept good form, so should the coach step in to deviate that river’s natural flow?
A lot will depend on the changes which will be made to the roster.
Right, we know that head coach Coetzee is no longer involved, and so too lineout and forwards coach Johann van Graan, who left the Bok set-up halfway through last November’s tour of Europe to fill the position vacated by Erasmus at Munster in Ireland.
But what of Matt Proudfoot, Coetzee’s only chosen helper, and the man who specialises in scrum work? He looks set to be replaced by Pieter de Villiers, the former France international and scrum guru.
And then there’s Franco Smith, the most recent backline coach, who was apparently told to move from Bloemfontein to the Cape if he wanted to keep his job.
He is not expected to do so, preferring to remain the Cheetahs’ director of rugby.
Mzwandile Stick, chopped from the team after 2016, looks set for a return, along with defence specialist Jacques Nienaber, in place of Brendan Venter.
What type of game the Boks will dish up under a new coach is anyone’s guess. Will the focus again shift to a forwards-dominated game plan; will it be more expansive, with little kicking, and who will have the faith of the coaching team to properly execute the plan?
The biggest question will be placed on provincial coaches, as winning styles and strategies at a club level have been known to go horribly wrong at an international level.
With the recent run of coaches and the ongoing dispute surrounding how SA rugby is run and how it runs the Springboks, the new coach will find a lot of media pressure along with the coach’s seat. Whoever steps into the role post-Coetzee will have to find comfort and familiarity in front of the camera and panel of journalists at every turn. He will have to step forward as the team’s leader and take the knocks when they come. And they will come.
If he is the man drawing up game plans and doing the coaching and picking the squads and teams, he has to be the one who answers questions around those decisions.
It is widely agreed that being the Bok boss is the toughest sports job in the world, and whoever’s in charge will have to be one mighty tough man