What do we want from a Springbok coach?
Or should it be what do we want from a Springbok coach right now? A job spec is an evolving thing. In fact, actual jobs are evolving things if you believe the futurists. Along with any sort of coding knowledge, online profile management is said to be a biggie in the not so distant future. This while the postal service and bricks and mortar retailing are unlikely to offer you much career stability.
So before asking if Heyneke Meyer is the right man for the job, it seems apt to first define the job as it stands right now.
Without getting into the finer detail, these would be my requirements of a Springbok coach set to take control of the team from January 2016:
• Evolve the South African game plan from one that relies solely on brute strength up front and astute kicking, to one that includes playing the situation using a plethora of attacking skills;
• Play a brand of rugby that not only excites both the players and fans, but makes us all proud to be supporters of the Springbok brand;
• Move away from relying solely on a playbook, to an environment that empowers the players to play what is in front of them using their natural talent learned skill-set;
• As such, condition and up-skill the players accordingly;
• Focus not on immediate results, and let not the 2019 Rugby World Cup define you. Instead focus on a long-term global ranking goal as a performance KPI;
• Build a large base of players with an open ranking in each position from which to call from. Do this by playing experimental sides in less important games;
• Be brave with your selections, moving away from the notion of not giving away “free caps” to one that broadens the player base that can play at the highest level;
• Know that racial window dressing will not be tolerated. Instead, as part of the new and braver selection policy, select players of colour on merit and give them time to settle;
• Distance yourself from both the game and the team so as to apply yourself as objectively as possible;
• Be pragmatic - knowing that the buck stops with you, take ownership of final selection, but base that on input from your various trusted sources;
• Define and implement a policy with regard to the selection of overseas players;
• Take key learnings from Argentina (general playing style via Graham Henry) and Australia (the scrum via Mario Ledesma), and bring in foreign skills where we need them;
• Facilitated by SARU, take ownership of the relationship with the Super Rugby coaches, with a view to developing a more evolved South African brand of rugby;
• Install a culture that speaks to rugby’s traditions - the game was fostered on a spirit of fraternity and shared experience and to not observe that is to disrespect a core tenet of the game. The third half, as the French call it, has always been rugby's greatest point of difference.
Could you see Heyneke Meyer fulfilling such a role?
Just based on the side he has selected for Friday night’s game against Argentina, without doubt the most arcane game on the rugby calendar, the answer has to be no.
This Bok team saddens me, and confirms all that is wrong with our game at the moment. It speaks to a mindset of being scared to fail, rather than experimenting in order to be great.
And as per former Bok lock Flip van der Merwe’s Tweet, it is an “Ungrateful team selection towards the rest of the 31-man squad who worked just as hard (over) the last 4 years”.
The time for change has come.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.Disclaimer:
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