Cape Town - Former Springbok Sevens player and Ireland international Dion O’Cuinneagain says the abundance of talent in South African rugby is not properly nurtured.
O’Cuinneagain, who played as a loose forward for Western Province before heading abroad where he represented Ireland at Test level, spoke exclusively to Sport24 ahead of Saturday’s Test between Ireland and the Springboks in Dublin.
When probed on how the South African and Irish structures differ, O’Cuinneagain said: “The Irish system is highly effective because they look after their talent exceptionally well. They have handed out approximately 90 professional contracts and all the players on their books are nurtured and developed.”
The South African system is different, the 45-year-old O’Cuinneagain stressed: “On the South African front, we have so much talent within our country and I often feel as though the coaches are like kids going into a toy store. They play with one toy for a little while and then get bored and amuse themselves with another. They know that there are players out there that they can just go and grab. They don’t have the time to nurture, develop and create great internationals. You will often see that Ireland will chose an 18-year-old and he will end up being in the system for 10 to 12 years. I feel that type of experience cannot be bought.”
Several South Africans currently ply their trade abroad and this has hurt the game locally, O’Cuinneagain added.
“The player exodus is a massive disadvantage for South African rugby. The seasoned professionals we have lost within our system would have been invaluable in terms of passing on their experience to the younger professionals. You need seasoned professionals to teach the youngsters about the culture of the teams, what the jersey represents and the nuances in terms of their positions. There is no way that any coach can teach someone like Duane Vermeulen the subtleties of eighthman play. However, if the latter was still playing his rugby in South Africa, he would be able to teach an up-and-coming eighthman exactly how to add elements to their game in order to make it at international level.”