Lloyd Burnard

Foreign coach could still transform Boks

2016-12-05 13:19
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - It is a sensitive time in South African rugby. 

Meetings will be held throughout this week as budgets, proposed format changes to the Currie Cup and the possibility of an increased private investment in the sport and unions are all discussed. 

In this time of crisis, change is imminent. 

South African rugby is reportedly in the red financially, players continue to leave for greener pastures abroad and there doesn't seem to be much that anyone can do to stop it. 

On top of all of that, the Springboks are broken and the future of coach Allister Coetzee is looking grim. 

He will meet with SA Rugby on December 13 to explain what went wrong in 2016 and, at this stage, there are conflicting reports of what will be decided in that meeting. 

Some analysts are calling it, saying that Coetzee is as good as gone, while others are adamant that he will be given another year with a strict performance clause added to his contract. 

Now, a report has surfaced that the Boks are considering appointing a foreign coach for the first time in their history with Chiefs boss Dave Rennie the man being lined up. 

Rennie is 53-years-old and has been coaching in New Zealand since 1999. He is absolutely entrenched in the All Blacks philosophy, has been tipped as a future All Blacks coach and has turned the Chiefs into one of the most attacking teams in Super Rugby over the past five years. 

In short, he represents everything that South African rugby isn't at the moment.

South Africans have been frothing for a style of rugby that can match the best in the world; something attacking, positive and entertaining that ultimately brings results.  

They haven't had any of the above under Coetzee.

The prospect of securing a man of Rennie's stature in this trying time is understandably appealing. 

The Boks have fallen behind in a big way, and if they are to catch up to the rest of the world once more then something drastic needs to be done. 

At this stage, the 2019 World Cup looks a straight shootout between the All Blacks and England. 

Anything can happen at a World Cup, but at the moment the Boks would not even come close to challenging. 

Appointing Rennie would give the Boks an injection of hope that would be centred around the opportunity to see the green and gold operate under Kiwi influence. It is a novelty, and something that would certainly bring public interest back to the Bok brand. 

But, as is the case with most things South African, it is not that simple. 

SA Rugby is on record as saying that transforming this Springbok side is as much of a priority as winning. 

That is a major component of Coetzee's 'mandate', and it will be a key expectation of whoever coaches this team moving forward should the current coach get the chop. 

Like it or not, the success of the Springboks over the next three years will not hinge solely on results. 

The team, between now and 2019, needs to transform. That is an instruction from the very top, and a Bok coach who does not ensure that 50% of the squad is made up of players of colour by 2019 will be considered a failure, regardless of results. 

Would a coach from outside of the country be able, or even willing, to accept the political requirements of this balancing act of a job? 

That, along with national pride, is the major concern that has always accompanied talks of hiring a foreign coach. 

But this is not a time for South Africans to be proud, and there is surely no reason why a foreign coach would not be able to get his head around the transformation requirements of the national side. 

Transformation is a uniquely South African problem, but that doesn't mean it can't operate in the hands of a foreigner. 

In fact, it may thrive. 

A foreign coach serves as an independent authority with no emotional connection to anything race-related in South Africa.

And that, if presented sensitively, could be a positive thing.  

When Heyneke Meyer selected white players over black players, he was racist. When Coetzee was appointed, it was because he was black. Ridiculous statements like this could never be made under a foreign coach, who could not possibly have any race-related agendas thrown his way in South Africa. 

If we are honest with ourselves as a collective group of sports-loving South Africans, we have had great difficulty in getting everybody on the same page in terms of what the best way forward is. 

As a result, we have failed to move forward at all. 

A coach from outside of our borders would come in without any perceived prejudices. He would have a job to do, and he would set about doing it. 

If he took the job, then he would have two very clear focuses: win and transform.

More than that, the coach would be able to pour all of his resources into achieving those two things without the fear or guilt that has perhaps come over previous Bok coaches who have been boxed into a corner of society based on the colour of their skin. 

Of course, before any of this happens, a foreign coach would need to completely understand and embrace the South African dynamic. 

He would need to accept that this job comes with its own relentless gush of political expectation and public scrutiny. And, often, that public scrutiny has little to do with on-field, rugby matters. 

If he can do that, and accept that his team selection must fall in line with this political and public expectation at all times, then SA Rugby should not have any worries in a foreign appointment, if their bank balance allows. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

Read more on:    springboks  |  dave rennie  |  rugby

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