Being the Bok coach can be terribly lonely.
Sure millions of people want a piece of you, and millions more have advice for
you, but it can get lonely in the sense that you are not really sure who you
should be listening to, yet the (very public) buck stops only with you!
“It’s the toughest job in the world” was
one of the ways former Bok mentor Nick Mallett described the job to me as we
whiled away the hour or so before our tee time in the annual Sunshine Tour
Media Challenge on Monday. The others are not suitable for family reading!
The public have their view, and these days
there are a multitude of ways for them to make that view known. The media have
their view, and are a very persuasive medium, especially in certain
communities. The politicians will have an opinion and not be shy to make it
known, often via the media rather than directly. SARU have certain goals that
need to be met. And the coach’s own management team will have their view, which
would ordinarily be his shoulder to lean on. But even that opinion comes with
some risk. Are they just being Yes-Men looking to keep their jobs, do they have
provincial agendas, or are they already looking to get a job with an imminent
And no matter how vehemently they deny it, every
single coach not only watches TV, but also reads most of the papers, websites,
blogs and even Twitter! The pressure builds, and doubts re who you should be
listening to creep in. They tend alienate themselves, and the crazy loneliness
rears its ugly head.
“If only an oke like Mac (former Bok coach
and current selector Ian McIntosh) had given me a call every week … I might not
have dropped Gary Teichmann when I did” said Mallett when discussing the
business of who you trust when making these big calls. Now happy to admit that
it was an error, at the time he had it in his mind that Bob Skinstad was the
man to lead the Boks at the World Cup. And we all know how that turned out.
And what sparked this little tete-a-tete?
Well, the man who’s opinion I respect more than anyone else in the game, came
up to me and said he enjoyed my column on the media having influenced Heyneke
Meyer’s reign as the Bok coach!
Smelling salts for those that have fallen
off their chairs please Mr Editor. Most comments last week called me hugely
arrogant for even thinking that us scribes might have had any influence at all
on our national treasure (Yep, columnists who say they don’t read the comments
are also lying).
Reading it again, I can see where those
folk are coming from. But what if I had said that public opinion, expressed via
the media, had influenced Meyer? Or what if I had used Mallett’s name? The
latter, via his post-match analysis on SuperSport, is hugely influential on how
the game is played in South Africa. Thankfully, given how much sense he speaks.
Perhaps then, the column would have come
across as less arrogant? I hope so, as that was certainly not my intention. Or
perhaps I am just a fat arrogant bastard?
Having a man of Mallett’s calibre, along
with a few others in the social media space, agree with me, does give me a
little solace though, as I still firmly stand by what I said.
And in closing, I must stress that I see
this as a huge credit to Meyer. That he has been big enough to take heed of any
criticism in the public domain, and use it as part of his coaching mix shows a
lack of arrogance that some coaches are prone to.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.
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