Springboks

Side Entry: Davids for Bok coach has stitch-up written all over it

2017-12-03 06:05
Simnikiwe Xabanisa.

Johannesburg - The most interesting thing about the name-dropping of Southern Kings coach Deon Davids in the phantom race to replace Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was less the fact that he was mentioned than it was the reaction to it.

On the face of it, Davids should be an out-and-out bolter in the discussion for Coetzee’s replacement when one considers that his highest-profile job has been with the struggling Southern Kings.

But the absence of the usual public outcry over a black coach with even less of a perceived pedigree than Coetzee being touted as the next Bok coach suggests two things.

Struggled

The first shows the desperation of South African rugby fans to see the back of Coetzee after two frustrating years. The second points to the implicit trust the public has in SA Rugby’s recently installed director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, whose fingerprints are supposedly all over the move to take Davids’ ambulance job routine all the way to the Boks.

Throughout his tenure, Coetzee’s CV of World Cup-winning Springbok assistant coach, two-time Currie Cup-winning coach and one-time Super Rugby finalist was always considered to be "n bietjie lig in die broek".

Davids, through no fault of his own, has only ever been in charge of a Kings side that struggled, then punched above its weight in Super Rugby and was back to its losing ways by winning none of its nine games in the Pro 14 competition leading up to this weekend.

Yet when Erasmus anoints him as the one, everyone is suddenly willing to give the man from Bredasdorp a chance.

The unseemly notion that Erasmus would actually be the one pulling the strings behind the scenes is what seemingly makes the idea a sound one in the minds of many, which speaks volumes about the selective lack of integrity we apply when it comes to our rugby.

Davids actually has an awful lot more going for him by way of attributes than just being Erasmus’ supposed proxy – a history of building bakeries from the breadcrumbs he is handed; a good transformation record; and teams that play attractive rugby despite not being thoroughbreds.

Davids has had to go into tournament campaigns (2016 Super Rugby and now Pro 14) with no pre-season games, but he almost always produces teams from the many reject players whose careers he has revived that play to a coherent pattern.

Wonderful job

Often, the complaint at Bok level is the lack of time to prepare teams. Davids admitted in these pages a few days ago that he had never seen his hastily assembled Kings side that opened the Pro 14 campaign play as a team.

Davids’ Kings side, perhaps because it was loaded to the gills with rejects, was also the most consistently transformed of the Super Rugby sides.

Most importantly, South African rugby fans have had it with “winning rugby” that doesn’t actually win rugby games. We’re constantly told that because Test rugby is different to Super Rugby, a more pragmatic approach is needed, but all we’ve been given in recent years is pug ugly rugby and no results.

Davids, who was influenced by John Mitchell during his time at the Lions, has never failed to produce attractive rugby.

That said, Davids could suffer from the Moyes effect. David Moyes did a wonderful job of turning Everton into a formidable smaller team in the English Premiership, but failed miserably when he got the Manchester United job.

After years of turning sow’s ears into silk purses, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Davids would suddenly make the Boks cook. Also, why reward Davids’ industry with a job that will likely end his coaching career if he doesn’t win the World Cup in 2019?

But the worst thing about this scheme, if it is true, is the idea that Erasmus could really run things in the shadows and leave Davids to face the media music. The basic issues there are that whenever the Boks did well, the credit would go to Erasmus, and every time they did badly, Davids would get the blame.

Are we really so desperate to see a new Bok coach that we’re happy to stitch up a man who has done nothing but good work to earn his next shot?

* Follow me on Twitter @Simxabanisa

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Saturday, 29 September 2018
South Africa v Australia, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 17:05
Saturday, 06 October 2018
South Africa v New Zealand, Loftus Versfeld 17:05
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