Tank Lanning

Be brave, SA Rugby

2008-09-05 02:47

Tank Lanning

So after world-wide speculation since just prior to the Rugby World Cup semi-final when SA Rugby asked for applications for the Bok coaching job, and after two days of what were seemingly pretty gruelling interviews with those candidates who made the final four, it came down to a vote.

Yes, that is how tight it was between Heyneke Meyer and Peter de Villiers as to who will take the helm as the Boks begin their four-year cycle as world champions. The committee responsible for recommending the main man to Saru's presidents' council could not agree on a single name, so took a vote late last night, and, as such, have submitted that name to the grand old men of SA rugby this morning.

Should they okay this name in today's meeting, the result will be made public this afternoon at a news conference scheduled for 13:00. Should they not, we will have to wait a few more days...

So what made the race so tight?

I would hazard a guess as to it not having a hell of a lot to do with rugby coaching ability, but much more to do with politics - and pretty basic politics at that. In fact, black and white politics!

Making up the numbers

Out of the four candidates, Chester Williams and Alistair Coetzee were always going to be bridesmaids to the main event.

Williams had to be farmed out to help the Ugandan Sevens team last year given that no one in SA wanted him, and Eddie Jones was brought in to ignite a Bok backline that looked positively dull under Coetzee. Making up the numbers...

So to Meyer and De Villiers. One with a sensational Super 14 track record, and one following in Jake White's footsteps with a more than solid record at international age group level.

Surely a no brainer in South African rugby right now!

Not prone to beating round the bush, I will be blunt.

We have an opportunity to appoint a man of colour as Springbok coach. How can Saru or SA Rugby possibly criticise Super 14 or provincial teams about their lack of transformation if they, themselves, given the candidates at their disposal, now appoint a white coach?

Successful at the top level

The unwritten law in both SA sport and business right now is that if you have two candidates of relatively equal competency vying for an open spot, you must select or employ the person of colour. This as part of the process to redress inequalities of the past.

So while Meyer might have the edge in credentials, given his Super 14 record, White has proved that Super 14 experience is not a necessity to be successful at the top level.

So we have two candidates of relatively equal credential and one is a man of colour. De Villiers must be given a chance to coach the Bok side.

Piet Heymans, chief executive of the SA Rugby Player Union, more than likely out of spite given that Sarpa were not invited to be on the committee responsible for selecting the Bok coach, was a little naughty yesterday, I thought. He made public the results of an SMS poll he conducted amongst the Sarpa members in which Meyer came out as the unanimous favourite.

Fantastic opportunity

Whether the players should be involved in the process is a separate debate, but given that the poll results have now been made public, pondering the influence of this result on the current decision is interesting.

To my mind the presidents' council could either take cognisance of the results and deem them important, or vote to spite the actions of Heymans.

So I think SA Rugby has a fantastic opportunity to appoint a black coach in De Villiers, and staff him up with a superb management team, that could include Meyer - if he was magnanimous enough - but I think when push comes to shove, they are going to go the more conservative and results focused route and go with Meyer.

No doubt cocking it up in the process, though, and hamstringing the fellow by not allowing him free rein in the selection of his management team or Springbok side.

I wait with bated breath...

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

  • Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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