Cape Town - Newly appointed Springbok assistant coach MZWANDILE STICK talks exclusively to Sport24
about working with Allister Coetzee, the Kings’ struggles in Super Rugby and the
state of SA rugby.
asked: What does the appointment mean to you and what’s led you to this point?
Stick: My appointment as Springbok backline
coach means a lot to me, my family and the people of the Eastern Cape. I
believe it’s a blessing from the man above. I’m now coaching the Springboks
because God sent me there for a reason – to inspire the young ones. It’s an
honour that a coach of Allister Coetzee’s calibre wants me to be part of his
journey going forward with the national team. One thing I know for sure is that
I’m going to take this opportunity with both hands. I’ve had to mature from a
young age because of the challenges I faced – I lost my mother at the age of 17
– and had to make vital decisions of my own accord. I had the choice to give up,
but I wanted to make my mom proud and ensure that I became something in life.
Rugby is the vehicle which has driven me to success.
asked: You retired in 2013. How’ve you found the transition from player to
Stick: It has proved a smooth transition
from the playing field to the coaching box. As a player, I was always part of
the leadership group. I captained the Springbok Sevens side and the Kings, and
I was one of the players that would regularly brainstorm ideas with the coaches
and discuss strategy. Coaching has been a natural progression and I’ve enjoyed
selling a vision to my players. To offer an analogy, when a telemarketer is
trying to sell you insurance they need to give you a valid reason why you
should sign up for the policy. The same goes for a coach. When you put
something on the table to the players you must give them all the angles and
make them understand why you want them to adopt a certain plan.
asked: You and Allister go back a long way. Talk about your working
Stick: The first time I met Allister was as
17-year-old when I was playing for Eastern Province and he was coaching. I can relate
to his humble background because I also hail from the Eastern Cape. Allister
knows my playing career well and I see that he’s done his research on me as a
coach and what type of person I am. Allister recently commented that he admires
my self-confidence and that I stand my ground well. It’s an honour to be
trusted by someone who has got that much experience in the game. I believe
Allister, Johann van Graan and I will complement one another well as a management
team. We share a common goal in ensuring that the Springboks become the best
they can possibly be. We will all have broad smiles on our faces when the green
and gold win and will feel the hurt when we lose.
asked: You’ve served as the Kings’ backline coach this season. Your
Stick: I have to be honest and say that it’s
the toughest challenge I’ve faced so far in my coaching career because we
started on the back foot and had to put a Super Rugby team together in the
space of two months. However, such challenges make you stronger moving forward
in life. I have learned a lot from my fellow coaches and the players have bought
into our vision. You can’t fault the players because they have been playing their
hearts out. We are often playing against stronger sides, where experience counts,
but the boys always put their bodies on the line and understand exactly where
we want them to be. Irrespective of the results, the Kings have helped me in
terms of my coaching development.
asked: As a legend of Springbok Sevens, what do you make of the current crop?
Stick: I can’t question the commitment of
the Blitzbok players under the guidance of coach Neil Powell. The boys are
clearly trying their best and it’s good to see Powell rotating his players in
an Olympic year. It’s important that he affords every individual an opportunity
because when the side heads to the Olympics, he will know their strengths and
weaknesses. It’s pleasing to see that the likes of Siviwe Soyizwapi, Tim Agaba and Ryan Kankowski have been
introduced to the fold. While Fiji is ahead of South Africa on the World Series
standings, the Blitzboks are still in the running for top spot. One tournament can
take us right back to the summit (two events remain) and we will want to finish
on a high note.
asked: What is the current state of SA rugby and which sides have impressed
I believe our rugby is in a healthy
state. The Stormers and Lions (who are leaders of Africa Conference 1 and 2
respectively) have shown the value of 15 players on the field who are all on
the same page. The Lions coaching staff deserve credit and we shouldn’t
underestimate the amount of work that’s been done behind the scenes. In terms
of team cohesion, the Lions are a well-functioning unit because they have been
playing together as a group for a few years and so understand each other very well.
The Stormers also possess a good team, and it’s clear the side that heads the
SA conference have forged a strong bond.