Pieter Rossouw chats to Sport24

2015-08-31 15:42

Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, former Springbok wing and current Namibia backline coach PIETER ROSSOUW on why he left the Bulls, his growth as a coach and his fondest Rugby World Cup memories.

Sport24 asked: Namibia spent three days training with South Africa. How was the Durban camp?

Pieter Rossouw: Training with one of the best rugby teams in the world was a brilliant experience for our players. The Springboks are all full-time professionals, whereas most of our team is made up of semi-professionals who either hold down day jobs or are studying. When we trained with the Springboks, the intensity was much higher. While we have worked tirelessly on our players’ fitness levels over the last two months, I believe there is still room for improvement. As a coaching group, we were very impressed with South Africa’s attention to detail. I managed to chat to Heyneke Meyer and the rest of his coaching staff, but the week was more about the on-field sessions and less about off-field information sharing. A player that has impressed me in training is flyhalf Theuns Kotzè. He is probably our most important backline player. Another outside back to watch is Chrysander Botha.

Sport24 asked: You served as Bulls backline coach for eight years. What was the experience like and why did you decide to leave Loftus?

Pieter Rossouw: I had a great experience in Pretoria and thoroughly enjoyed coaching the Bulls. It was a privilege to mentor at a top team at such a high level. During my time, we won the Currie Cup once and two Super Rugby titles. However, on-field success is not what defines me as a coach. Waking up in the morning, heading to the field and coaching players is special because I derive joy from making a difference in peoples’ lives. In terms of my decision to leave Loftus, I was born in Swellendam and my family and I want to return to our roots in the Cape. It’s therefore a life decision rather than a rugby one. I want my children to be schooled in Cape Town and to be closer to family.

Sport24 asked: In what ways have you developed as a backline coach over the past decade?

Pieter Rossouw: Attacking-wise, I have always been pretty competent as I hail from Cape Town, the home of running rugby. However, the two areas in which I learned a lot at the Bulls setup was the importance of a defensive system and kicking structure. The Bulls were the first team to employ a defence coach and, as such, I gained a greater appreciation for that aspect of play. I feel I’ve become a well-rounded backline coach at a professional level. I’ve learned the value of possessing a sound tactical kicking game, a strong defensive system and a penetrative attack from broken field and first phase. As a player, I got involved in terms of tactical preparation and gave thought to the game. I would analyse my own play as well as that of my opponents. Coaching was a natural cause of events. As a player, I was trying to live out my dreams, whereas the incentive as a coach is to assist players in fulfilling their true potential. I once said rugby was never a job for me, but rather a way of life and that still holds true today. I have really enjoyed ploughing my passion for rugby back into coaching.

Sport24asked: What is the role of a modern day wing and how has it changed since your career?

Pieter Rossouw: During my playing days, the winger tended to be an out-and-out finisher. Nowadays, the wing gets much more involved in play. Thus, he has to have excellent aerial skills because the game has changed and the defensive structures are so sound. The tendency is for teams to now pick wingers that are really big and physically imposing. Wingers today are used to generate momentum and not just to finish off try-scoring opportunities. Wingers in the modern game also have to boast a high work-rate and the stuff they do off the ball is just as important. Bryan Habana is such an impressive athlete because he’s improved his work-rate and off the ball play. If you can tick those boxes, you become a valuable player for your team. Along with the physical side of the game – he has maintained an excellent level of conditioning – the reason Habana is heading to his third consecutive World Cup is because he retains a hunger to be successful and compete at the highest level. He has proved a phenomenal player and is a great ambassador for South African sport at large.

Sport24 asked: You scored 21 tries in a six-year Springbok career. Was your try in the 13-3 win over the All Blacks in Wellington (‘98 Tri-Nations) the most crucial five-pointer you ever scored?

Pieter Rossouw: That was probably the team’s most important try. It came about at an important stage and set us up for a crucial away win. Henry Honiball and I had spoken about doing something different on attack and he was the one who suggested that move, which we practiced once or twice during the week. The All Blacks had never seen that move before and so hadn’t been prepared for it. It worked out so well – Henry moved right, did a shimmy and then played it back to me as I came in from the left wing. I ended up scoring right under the posts which was special. The Test at Athletic Park was the 50th meeting between South Africa and New Zealand which was a milestone in itself.

Sport24 asked: You played at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Your memories from that tournament?

Pieter Rossouw: I have special memories of the tournament which was also held in the UK. Our 44-21 win over England in the quarterfinal – when Jannie de Beer slotted a record five drop goals – was unbelievable and will remain etched in my memory. On the flipside, the extra-time drop goal loss in the semi-final against Australia was a sore point for a long time to come. But all-in-all, the 1999 World Cup was a great experience and we managed to beat the All Blacks 22-18 to claim third place. I enjoyed working under Nick Mallett. He was a passionate coach, a real rugby lover and is very knowledgeable about the oval game. His drive to be successful was one the main reasons he held a 71 percent win rate during his time as Springbok coach from 1997 until 2000. From what I have observed, Heyneke Meyer possesses the same characteristics regarding the passion to be successful.

Sport24 asked: Namibia tackle the All Blacks in their first fixture in Pool C. Meanwhile, South Africa could theoretically face New Zealand in the semi-final. How do you beat the men in black?

Pieter Rossouw: For us, it will be tough to beat the defending world champions because, as I outlined previously, we don’t boast many professional rugby players in our squad. However, the guys have shown plenty of courage and character, and we’ll certainly give it our best shot. Play tactically well and you can put the All Blacks under pressure. However, to beat the top-ranked team in world rugby, you have to be switched on for the full 80 minutes and be accurate in everything that you do. Deciding when to kick and when to run is crucial, and such strategy is also be dependent on the weather conditions. The Springboks have displayed in recent times they are capable of beating the All Blacks, and have found success against the men in black when they have varied their play.


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