Pieter Rossouw (Gallo Images)
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.
asked: Namibia spent three days training with South Africa. How was the Durban
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.
asked: You served as Bulls backline coach for eight years. What was the experience
like and why did you decide to leave Loftus?
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.
asked: In what ways have you developed as a backline coach over the past
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.
What is the role of a modern day wing and how has it changed since your
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.
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?
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.
asked: You played at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Your memories from that tournament?
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.
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?
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.
Roger De Sa
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk
John MitchellDavid Campese