JJ Harmse

Bok new coach faces headache

2011-11-10 13:06
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
JJ Harmse

For any potential coach of the Springboks in 2012, the announcement of The Rugby Championship must have created mixed emotions.

First of all, there was probably the realization that taking this job will be one of the hardest, if not the most demanding of all, of rugby jobs out there.

He just needs to look at the fixtures for that competition to realise how tough things can get.

Taking on the World Champions, the team ranked second in the world and a very unpredictable Pumas team on a home and away basis over six weeks will be a huge task indeed, especially on the back of a Super Rugby season, which depending on the progress of South African sides, could run its course only in late July.

There is some comfort in the fact that the Wallabies will host the Boks in Perth, which will mean a shorter flight, better weather and a good history at the venue.

It also breaks down the trip to New Zealand a week later and for once, the Boks will have the luxury of playing in Dunedin in the new roofed stadium.

The Boks have won at Carisbrooke in 2008 of course, but the idea of playing the All Blacks without the freezing cold of those Arctic winds and rain will be a comfort to the South Africans.

Also, Soccer City and Loftus Versfeld should be endorsed as venues for the inbound Tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies and both would provide the ideal platform for the Springboks to beat their opponents.

Before that though, the coach will have to front up against England for three Test matches. I have little doubt that we will beat the tourists in Test match two and three, but I have serious concerns about the first Test match, which will also be the first for the new coach in charge.

That Test match will be played on June 9th. Take into consideration that the Bulls host the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on June 2nd and the Lions play the Sharks at Coca Cola Park on the same day (and the Stormers and Sharks meet the week before); it is quite clear how difficult that first week will be for the new coach.

Local derbies are brutal and those two will be no different. And it is not ideal for any coach to see his first team in a defining Test match smash each other into the ground a week before they need to take on England.

We can look back to 2007, where the Bulls and Sharks played each other a week before the Boks played England, but back then, Jake White was in his fourth year as a coach and the Bok side was pretty settled.

This time around the new Bok coach have other issues as well. When to announce the side? Do you do it after those two derbies or before? Do you let the players know beforehand that they have made the side, but only announce it afterwards? Do you pick overseas-based players?

It will certainly be interesting to see the new coach’s take on overseas-based players.

One would like to believe that players like Fourie du Preez and Danie Rossouw will be well rested come June, as their Japanese commitments will be over by then, but will they be considered?

Du Preez certainly did not play like the best scrumhalf in the world he once was during the recent World Cup, but that does not mean that he cannot recapture that form.

And with all respect to the likes of Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak and other hopefuls, if Du Preez gets his groove back in Japan, any Springbok coach will think long and hard NOT to pick him.

The same with Gurthrö Steenkamp who is now fully matured as an international prop and will be the best in the world in that position for the next couple of years.

Those issues, the brutality of those derby matches a week before and when and how to announce his team will be things the new coach will have to consider.

There is also the issue about a captain. But perhaps that one will be forced on the coach by the last man standing. Pick three or four captains in your mind and see who is standing by the week you name you first team!

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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