Tank Lanning

Wanted: A Springbok ID

2016-11-24 07:56
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

A big ball of play dough. That old beanbag in the lounge. Butter that has been in the sun all afternoon. These are the things that come to mind when I think about the current state of South African rugby.

An amorphous mass lacking in definition and direction. All a little wishy-washy.

This at a time when the sport is crying out for tough decisions to be made by confident leaders with wurtzite boron nitride backbones sans any sort of history that gets People magazine editors excited.

Does boron nitride come to mind when you think of Mark Alexander or Allister Coetzee? Or even our esteemed sports minister? Affable, perhaps even cuddly, and fun guys to have 'round for Sunday lunch no doubt. But the 'okes' you want at the helm when your ship is taking on water faster than Hugh Bladen on a Sunday morning? I am not so sure.
Hence what is being playing out between the four white lines.

What exactly does Springbok rugby stand for these days?

A fundamental issue sees the Bok brand no longer clearly defined, and as such no longer providing any sort of inspiration.

I have seen under 12 sides pull together and play for each other better than this current Bok side.

And given the player drain, the Bok brand clearly no longer has the pull or inspiration needed to keep players in South Africa. Not that we have had the guts to actually test that theory, though - unlike the All Blacks, who have nurtured a brand that inspires both players and the nation.

Getting to this point - surely rock bottom - has been a hellishly unpleasant ride. Let it not be all doom and gloom, though.

SARU now has a fantastic opportunity to build the Bok brand up again - perhaps into something even greater than it once was-– giving the brand an identity that means something to all South Africans.

For umpteen reasons, the playing field has now changed. As a brutally divided sport on so many fronts, South African rugby missed the chance to restructure in order to truly embrace the professional after the 1995 World Cup. Hence our current amateur era structures falling apart in the face of professional era demands. We simply cannot miss this opportunity to change.

An aside - might we have embraced the professional era better had we not won the 1995 World Cup? Did winning it make us arrogant enough to think our structures at the time would suffice?

So we have this brave new world, requiring brave new calls, but do we have the brave new people in place to make said calls?

How do we ditch the gravy train? Do we continue to play Super Rugby or do we court the Northern Hemisphere? How do we handle transformation? Do we go the privatisation route? If so, how many franchises do we offer to potential investors? What do we do with the rest? Who runs and finances amateur rugby? Do we contract players centrally? If so, how? What is the salary cap? Do we select overseas-based players?

On none of these issues can we be half pregnant.

Define these (even if we get it wrong initially, but at least make a call), and the Bok coach then has a defined framework in which to work. And from that, powered by a coach confident in his approach, will come a Springbok identity.

That said, is it fair to defend Allister Coetzee’s record using this lack of this structural framework? Has any Bok coach ever had this luxury? Strong Springbok coaches of the past have got the team to perform despite this lack of structural support.  

Coetzee is not strong and I think he has completely lost the changing room.

85% of the 22 500 participants in a News24 poll voted for Coetzee to go. In the latest Vodacom Player Ratings, Coetzee got the lowest rating I have ever seen - 0.7 out of 10. Quite clearly, he has lost the fans.

Some are saying that he deserves more time. I remain unconvinced. Instead give me some wurtzite boron nitride and the first step on a path toward a redefined Springbok identity that inspires.  

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

Disclaimer: 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.

Read more on:    springboks  |  tank lanning  |  rugby
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