Johannesburg - “I want to make every player in the Titans squad 10% better. If I didn’t think I could take every player forward, I would not have accepted the job as Titans coach,” said Mark Boucher.
Boucher, successor of Rob Walter as the man at the helm of the Titans, said he learned from a number of coaches who all had their own philosophy on how to make South Africa a world-class unit. He played in 147 Tests and 291 One Day Internationals under the tutelage of Bob Woolmer, Graham Ford, Eric Simons, Ray Jennings, Mickey Arthur and Gary Kirsten.
Yet, he also learned from humble beginnings in East London while Pieter Strydom was the captain and Richard Pybus the coach. He said those players at Border were not necessarily individually the best, but as a unit they punched above their weight and played as a family who wanted to achieve silver-ware for one another. They constantly challenged for titles and pushed big teams to the brink because of their work-ethic and cohesion.
Boucher said he thrived under the coaching regime of Jennings, but was similarly at ease when Kirsten was at the helm. Those were different extremes, but he enjoyed both experiences.
“I enjoyed Ray. He hit base with me,” Boucher said.
“During my playing days, I was quite feisty, but the freak accident (Boucher lost the lens, iris and pupil of his left eye after a bail hit his eye in a warm-up game prior to the test series in the United Kingdom in 2012) changed my personality quite a bit.
“It opened up my eyes,” he said.
“In my dealings with Paddy Upton and Gary, I learned that each player is different. Not every player is comfortable with an up-front (confrontational) approach.
“You need to manage each player differently.”
Micro-management of players in order to get the best out of them is important because some players might thrive if they are get the hair-dryer treatment, but others would rather need encouragement and a pat on the back, rather than a kick.
Boucher also learned from different captains. Graeme Smith was a tough task master who led from the front with enormous pride and determination and demanded high standards from his players. The former South African wicketkeeper-batsman, who claimed 998 dismissals during his legendary career, said it is important to create an environment in which each player can thrive.
He said he agreed with Shaun Pollock, a former SA captain’s summary that players need to back themselves, because if they don’t nobody will. Yet, some players make a magnificent start at test level which just propels them to a new level. Others struggle initially, and they might need a talk and somebody who can motivate them and give them more confidence.
“I must give them opportunities to fulfil their dreams,” he said.
Boucher said he will be continuing with the Boucher Legacy NPC which aims at purchasing a state of the art DNA analysis machine for the veterinary genetics laboratory of the University of Pretoria, which helps with the plight of the rhinos.
Although his vision in his left eye is not great and affects his depth perception, he continues to play golf.
“I have also done trail running, as I enjoy nature.”
Boucher is not fazed about the fact that he is taking over the mantle from Walter after the Titans had won the domestic double.
Does that pressurize him? “If I did not think I could take every player forward, I would not have taken the job. My aim is to try and make every player 10% better,” he added.