Five challenges for new Bok coach


1 Time to take the Boks to a new level

The time of one-off runners crashing into tackles, aimless kicks down the opposition’s throat, and making 200 tackles in a Test match is over. It’s time for the Springboks to be more dynamic in their approach.

The new Bok coach needs to take South Africa’s traditional strengths, i.e. lineouts, scrums and defence, and add some innovation, finesse and flair. The Boks need to be able to play an all-round game and adapt to the situations on the field. Passion and power are not enough to beat the All Blacks anymore.

Players need to be empowered to play what’s in front of them, whether it is to kick or run. And the coach needs to be brave enough to implement that strategy. Heyneke Meyer was on that path for a while, but he withdrew into his shell during the World Cup.

2 Assemble a strong backroom staff and be able to take their advice

The Bok coach needs people around him who he can trust, but who can challenge his decisions on and off the field.

The assistant coaches need to make a meaningful contribution in training. The role of the head coach has more to do with player management and strategy, while it’s the function of the assistants and the technical advisors to make the sure that the players’ skills are sharp, and that the calls and moves around the set-pieces are executed properly.

But the backroom staff also need to give their input as far as the game plan and selections are concerned, and should feel comfortable enough to challenge the coach if they disagree with anything. Anybody can appoint a bunch of guys who just carry around a few balls, but a coach who is serious about his job will listen to other opinions.

3 Have a clear understanding of Saru’s transformation goals

It’s clear that Meyer didn’t take SA Rugby’s transformation policies seriously enough. Or, maybe he just wasn’t adequately informed about his role on the matter.

The new Bok coach should have a clear understanding of Saru’s transformation targets, because going into a Test match at home with one black wing and a Zimbabwean-born prop is going to get him in trouble.

The Bok coach, believe it or not, also plays a key role when it comes to nation-building. So he has to make sure that he gives equal opportunities to players from all walks of life.

The biggest myth in South African rugby is that black players weaken teams. Yet over the last few years, the Stormers have been the best South African Super Rugby side, and they have consistently had 40-50 percent black representation in their starting lineups.

4 Managing a diverse group of egos

There’s a significant difference between allowing players to have free rein, and giving them the room to grow and express themselves.

Not too long ago, there were rumours that the players were running the Bok team when Peter de Villiers was in charge, that senior players like John Smit and Victor Matfield were actually coaching the team.

I still find that rather hard to believe, because De Villiers has always been known to be hardegat.

During his time at the helm, it is believed that Meyer allegedly made promises to players who were in the twilight of their career, to take them to the World Cup. This, of course, backfired.

So the new coach will have to make sure that he is fair as a man-manager, but also firm in his decisions. The players are important but, in the end, the buck stops with the coach.

5 Steer clear of the boardroom politics

For some reason, Saru’s bigwigs like to have a go at each other at least once a week. So the coach has to ensure that the boardroom politics don’t spill over onto the field.

You have to wonder how much the Boks were influenced by all the drama surrounding transformation at the World Cup. Were they focused on the winning the tournament when they got to England?

A great coach deflects pressure or uses it to try and get the best out of his team. He will also have to tread carefully to avoid the minefields. Some people have their own agendas.

Cape Argus

Original source: Five challenges for new Bok coach