Gary Boshoff

Boks, Baby Boks STILL waiting on coach clarity

2017-02-13 14:09
Gary Boshoff (File)

The well-known adage, “the more things change the more they stay the same” is perhaps more true for rugby than for any other institution in South Africa.

It was just last year when many of us were granted our wish with the sacking of Heyneke Meyer and the subsequent appointment of Allister Coetzee. The slow appointment process that followed led to a range of negative consequences and outcomes for both Coetzee and the Springboks. We all know the story and I will not bore you with it again. 

Since then former SARU president, Oregan Hoskins, wilted under the growing discontent among his fellow executive members and resigned, supposedly over his handling of the Jurie Roux saga.

In SARU, what you see and what you get, or even what is officially media-released, almost always has a very good chance of later being contradicted by some or other “reputable source”.

Nevertheless, Hoskins was replaced by his deputy president, Mark Alexander, who (if you can recall) was his original “running mate” as deputy, then later opposed him, just to return again as deputy president under the same Hoskins. 

Another recent change was the election of Francois Davids, the former Boland President, as deputy president ahead of Thelo Wakefield of Western Province. To address the gender component, SARU also co-opted Ilhaam Groenewald (Director of Sport at Stellenbosch University) onto the executive.

With all these changes we hoped for fresh thinking and a clearer sense of direction in the SARU boardroom. 

Unfortunately, none of it has been forthcoming, in fact, it’s been business as usual.  

The federation still has a CEO who is accused by his former employer of embezzling millions of rands and who is apparently still under investigation by the Hawks. The organisation is desperately in need of decisive leadership, first and foremost in the boardroom and secondly, in the management and coaching of the Springboks, the biggest and only value proposition the business has to offer. 

In times like these leaders must step up and do what needs to be done to get the business back on track. In rugby it seems the opposite is happening - everyone has gone quiet.

We were promised clarity on Coetzee’s position as Springbok coach before the end of January 2017, well, it’s mid-February and still nothing.

The Baby Boks recently had a training camp in preparation for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship that takes place in June 2017 in Georgia; they too are still without a coach and a management team. 

Things were supposed to get better, but it is clear that it is getting worse by the day. 

Who will take responsibility for the failure of the Baby Boks and the Springboks come July? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

But enough of the torture and speculation. Let’s rather talk about the chances of our Super Rugby franchises for Super Rugby 2017. 

Just looking at the squads and the first pre-season friendly results, the early signs are that the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls will be the pace setters. Notwithstanding the fact that we’ll only be speculating without any real substance to go on, I am still prepared to put down my marker for one or two of these teams based on the composition of their squads, management teams and 2016 performance.

I am tipping the Sharks as the winner of the South African Conference this year. The team has recovered from the loss of Marcel Coetzee and a few other regulars and used the Currie Cup to blood a number of youngsters which will give them the required depth that is so important in Super Rugby. 

The return of Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach will do wonders for the Durban outfit. Inny Radebe, Garth April and Curwin Bosch will provide more than capable back-up. Last year Bosch vindicated the confidence in him with very mature performances in the Sharks jersey. He reminded me of a young Lambie when he progressed to the Sharks senior sides in 2008. 

In the forwards players like Chilliboy Ralepelle, Beast Mtawarira, Stefan Lewies and Keegan Daniel will most certainly grab their last opportunity to make a statement in Super Rugby. Robert du Preez has settled down in Super Rugby and comes across as a coach that is patient and who is prepared to give talented youngsters a go. I have a feeling that they are going to reward him this year with great performances. Go Sharks!

While the Lions will continue to be up there among the contenders, they will not have the luxury of catching their opponents off-guard two years in a row. They will be watched with eagle eyes and local coaches would have worked out counters for the Lions’ strengths and as a result they will lose more of their 50/50 games this time around. I expect them to finish around mid-table.

The Stormers have signed up a few discards from the Bulls, which I assume is merely as back-up for potential injuries. A plus for the Stormers is the consistency of their management team with the addition of Paul Feeney, a New Zealander, to provide a fresh angle in attack. 

It remains to be seen whether this will add value to the team and how he will combine with Paul Treu who has managed to establish a greater sense of purpose and technical awareness among the players in defence. In the latter part of Super Rugby and the Currie Cup the WP forwards found the going tough and came off second best more often than not.  They will once again come under pressure from the Sharks, Lions, Cheetahs and Bulls in this department. The first big test will be in the opening encounter against the promising Bulls.

The return of Handre Pollard could just be the spark that the Bulls has been missing. Their weak spot has been the flyhalf and scrumhalf positions. Both Tian Schoeman and Rudi Paige were pretty average throughout 2016. I am very excited about the potential of a Pollard/Papier (Ambrose) combination in Super Rugby. It is here where the Bulls need a transformation in their approach and these two are just the combination to provide it. If they can get things right in that department they are going to be the dark horse to watch.

After watching the Six Nation performances of Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and France, the inactivity on the national front (here at home) has me more worried than ever. The shear fitness and conditioning of the players are of an extremely high standard while the skill levels, even that of Italy, has been impressive. A good friend of mine continues to remind me every day: the margins between winning and losing have shrunk to millimetres and milli-seconds. We will have to lift our game and do it fast, or we will be left too far behind to catch up.

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player (1984-1986)

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