Mnisi believes European sides might be better coached than South Africa's

2020-05-19 20:45
Howard Mnisi (Gallo Images)
Howard Mnisi (Gallo Images)

It took Howard Mnisi just six outings in the PRO14 to realise South African rugby's broader intellectual capital might be lagging behind other counterparts.

Having spent the majority of his career competing in Super Rugby, the 30-year-old centre swapped South for North in representing the Southern Kings this past season, a chapter that will now continue at the Cheetahs.

While hardly suggesting that local coaches are inferior, Mnisi merely intimates that the past few years' steady brain drain has seen various mentors initially trying to find their own feet instead of focusing fully on ruthlessly stamping their authority.

"Seeing and experiencing how opponents in the Pro14 are preparing has been an eye-opener for me," he told Sport24.

"To be really honest - and this is just what I gathered playing against them - it seems that the European teams are far more technically inclined. These guys are coached intensely and seem to really place an emphasis on finer details.

"It's definitely different to here in South Africa, where it feels to me that we're actually becoming more comfortable letting players follow their own lead to an extent. We still concentrate a lot on the basics, which is a good thing, but there are quite a few instances of instinctive players coming to the fore."

It's reasonable to assume that some local franchises follow such a recipe because, as Mnisi points out, the quicker tempo of Super Rugby isn't always conducive to playing in a more regimented fashion.

That said, the Cheetahs and Kings have come unstuck previously when trying to replicate the faster game they pride themselves on at home in Europe's slower conditions.

Mnisi also believes South African sides can learn from the PRO14's intense desire for ruthlessness on the field.

"The best way to explain that is to compare the two competitions when a penalty is given. In Super Rugby, you might find that the opposition will tap and run at you again. It could put you on the back foot of course, but there's also a chance that you can absorb the pressure because of the opposition's eagerness to attack," he said.

"In the PRO14, you can bet that you're either going to be punished by conceding three points or those guys are going to kick for territory and place you under immense pressure. It might seem like the less exciting option, but they want you to know all the time that they're going to hammer at you for points."

The Cheetahs, since being inaugurated into the expanded tournament in 2017, have only sporadically shown the technical and tactical nous to adapt to overseas conditions effectively.

As a result, most of their success has still been achieved at home where drier, harder fields reward a more open approach.

Given that Mnisi flourished in a similar system at Ellis Park, the 1.86m, 96kg playmaker shouldn't find it too taxing to fit in at his new franchise.

But he's not going to fall for that one.

"I think I know my way around an attacking game-plan, though it's still dangerous to make assumptions," said Mnisi.

"I'm playing under a new coach (in Hawies Fourie) with his own ideas and a team with its own unique structures. It's undeniable that I'll have to adapt."


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