After his campaign to save the rhino, former Protea Mark Boucher is back as Titans coach. He spoke to Simnikiwe Xabanisa.
How did the job come about?
The post was advertised and, to be honest, I never thought I’d be interested in coaching. [But] I’ve always enjoyed sort of giving back to the game or imparting knowledge while I was still a player.
So I think there was always a bit of a coaching side in me. When I went to have a stint in the IPL (Indian Premier League) with the KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) boys, then I sort of realised this is something I actually enjoy. When this job became available, I thought I’d give it a bash.
What makes you think you are the right person for a coaching job?
First of all, I think you need to know the game. I think you need to have the respect of the players. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think I had their respect.
You need to know how to manage certain individuals and that’s something I’ve picked up over the years in my career, having been privileged to have played under so many coaches.
Much has been made of your lack of formal coaching qualifications, what’s your response?
I know a lot of people have been saying I don’t have a Level Four coaching certificate and I fully respect that. I’ve got no problem getting those coaching badges.
Whether it’s required with the experience I’ve got, I’m not too sure, maybe more of a man-managing course is required from my side. I’m fully prepared and honest enough to know that I need that sort of stuff, and that’s something we’re planning to do in the near future.
As a player, you had a reputation as a fighter, will that influence your style of coaching?
I hope so. I don’t think being a fighter on the field is a bad thing at all. I think fighting is a strong word, I prefer the word competitive. I think to be the best in the world. In any sport, you need to be a fierce competitor.
That’s something I’ll definitely be bringing into the set-up if I can. I’m fortunate in that it seems to be here already because there are two trophies in the cabinet.
Speaking of which, how do you improve a team that won two out of three trophies last season?
That’s the question everyone is asking – how to top two trophies. But then again, there’s a third trophy ... In an ideal world, it would be nice to look at the cabinet and say we’ve got three trophies, but it would be stupid of me to think that. I think what I’ve got to try to do is keep the winning formula and if I can add more, I should do that.
I’ve said that if I can improve each player by about 10%, I would have done a good job, and hopefully the trophies will take care of themselves. I’m not driven by trophies, I’m driven by improvement.
Given your experiences with transformation at national team level, what’s your approach going to be with the Titans?
If you look at the policies, they’re pretty cast in stone and we have to abide by them. Every player knows what the policies are and they have to understand that competition for selection is very fierce. And that’s not a bad thing, that’s a positive because guys can no longer coast in franchise cricket.
With regards to players of colour, the competition is good because we’ve got a lot of young black kids coming through. I’m very much of the mould that I want to bring some new talent in and create some stars, and we’ve got one or two here at the Titans, guys I think can play really nicely. We need to give them the best coaching, and by that I don’t mean technical coaching, it’s more mental coaching.
The young kids coming through, you can make or break them mentally, so you’ve got to look after them by giving them the love and the care they deserve with regards to the dynamics of our country.
You turn 40 in December, what are your reflections?
I’ve had a very fortunate upbringing and have done a lot of things people haven’t been given an opportunity to do, and I’m really grateful for that. I had a very nice career that didn’t end so nicely.
But I think the injury I sustained changed me as a person completely. It made me realise a lot of things about the person I was and maybe had become. I wrote about it in my book that, sometimes as a professional sportsman, you can live in a bubble. My bubble was burst and it wasn’t a bad thing at all because maybe I’d lost sight of what was really important, like family and friends.
Sometimes when you travel the world you forget to message those guys and you break relationships you shouldn’t be breaking.
Maybe there are a few things I could have done differently, but it is what it is.