Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, former Springbok coach and current national selector IAN McINTOSH discusses the benefits of simplifying the rule book, his biggest regret as Bok mentor and the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw.
Sport24 asked: All South African rugby fans are national selectors in their own minds. However, what does the professional role actually entail?
Ian McIntosh: As selectors we get involved right from grassroots level and it’s effectively a bottom-up approach. At the stage of Under-16 Craven Week and the South African Schools, we pick what we call ‘potential players’. It’s interesting to note that 80 percent of the side that represented South Africa at last year’s IRB Junior World Championship came through that system of identification. At the top, I work closely with Heyneke Meyer and Peter Jooste when selecting the senior national side.
Sport24 asked: Is the most challenging part of the job not who you select, but who you leave out?
Ian McIntosh: At times, yes because we have an abundance of playing talent in this country. However, competition for places is always healthy. As a selector, selecting the best available players is ultimately what you’re looking for. Team unity is a crucial element, but let’s be honest if you played with the greatest players in the world, you would have the greatest team. However, whether they play successfully together is up to the coach, whose job it is to unify and motivate the players.
Sport24 asked: Having suffered back-to-back away defeats, will the selectors look to stick or twist for the remainder of the Rugby Championship?
Ian McIntosh: I believe continuity is what is needed now, and then we’ll reassess after the Rugby Championship. Let’s be honest, we are all disappointed about the recent results, but I for one took a lot of heart out of the performances I witnessed. Before the Perth Test, all I heard wherever I went was, “watch out, Australia will give the Springboks a whipping.” The commitment from the players was fantastic and because we nearly beat them, they are now labelled as a weak side. When we arrived in New Zealand, all I heard was that the Springboks were not even on the same planet as the All Blacks. And once again, the players performed unbelievably well, which augurs well for the future. We are blooding some youngsters and, in my opinion, we’re witnessing a strong progression.
Sport24 asked: You broke the mould by becoming the first non-Springbok to coach the national side. Do you have any regrets having not led the Springboks to the 1995 Rugby World Cup?
Ian McIntosh: Sure, it would have been nice to lead the Springboks to their first World Cup title. However, my biggest regret was the fact that I only had one year in actual time to coach the national team. I believe any coach needs at least two or three years to build a side, especially at that level. As a team, I believe we never reached the full potential of how we could have played in those days.
Sport24 asked: You’ve been described as the “ultimate rugby man.” Outline your philosophy.
Ian McIntosh: It’s a well-known fact that I believe in playing direct rugby - 15 men playing towards the ball. There are three ways of playing the game: you can either go wide or go straight in and get in front of your forwards, so that they can all play onto the ball and if you can’t do that then you must kick it. The most important aspect is that the breakdown does not occur behind your forwards.
Sport24 asked: You served on the IRB’s Experimental Laws Committee. What did that role involve?
Ian McIntosh: I was very privileged to have been on that panel with some great thinkers within the oval game. We did not try to devise the game with any one particular country in mind, but rather wanted to improve it globally. After four years of extensive research, we removed 40 law provisions and, in effect, simplified the rule book. Wherever it was trialled it was successful, but unfortunately it became bastardised because only 10 laws were kept which were, in my opinion, insignificant. Now, I believe the laws are so messed up because they do nothing more than contradict each other.
Sport24 asked: The scrums remain a highly contentious facet of play. What’s your opinion?
Ian McIntosh: It’s absolutely ludicrous the way the scrums are administrated at the moment, and it has become a 50-50 call and a complete mess up. The simple solution is to go back to the old ways. For example, in the Perth Test, we had 12 scrums and only four were successful, meaning that two-thirds of the time there was a either a reset or penalty which came about. I believe that the introduction of the ‘touch’ call has caused all the problems. If they’re worried about the hit, I believe the players should come together and fold in. And once they have folded, let the referees step away and say, “your ball, your call.” It would surely result in stable scrums and a return to normal rugby.
Sport24 asked: Do penalty offences at the tackle make the breakdown a subjective nightmare?
Ian McIntosh: Yes. The late Doctor Danie Craven used to ask, ‘’what is sinful about playing the ball on the ground with your hands?” You want the ball, not the whistle. I believe that as long as players come in through the gate, all is fair. You should be allowed to seal off on the ground if you’re allowed to seal off in the maul. What worked during our experimental laws exercise was that players were allowed to play the ball on the ground, aside from the tackler himself, who would kill the ball.
Sport24 asked: The Springboks have been drawn in Pool B for the 2015 World Cup and look set to play Australia in the quarter-finals, New Zealand in the semi-finals and England in a potential final.
Ian McIntosh: That’s a very tough draw and I suppose by getting knocked out at the quarter-final stage in 2011, we let ourselves in for that. However, at World Cups you have to play the strongest teams somewhere along the line. Ultimately, it’s about how you adapt on match day. The team is coming together nicely and this time next year, Heyneke will have very good depth to draw from.
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