In the time-honoured tradition of speculation in sports writing being a case of two plus two equalling five, Bulls director of rugby Alan Zondagh’s departure this week was met with whispers that his replacement will be a man who’s held the job before, Heyneke Meyer.
As the man who built the Bulls’ dynasty in the 2000s, it makes sense that Meyer – having recently parted ways with French club Stade Français – would warrant a mention on the rumour mill, even though he may have put a few noses out of joint in Pretoria by leaving with practically all the backroom staffers when he took on the Springbok coaching job in 2012.
Whatever the chequered history, were Meyer to make a sensational return to Loftus Versfeld, and should the Southern Kings’ talks with another former Springbok coach, Jake White, succeed, getting the two involved in domestic rugby again would be both a good and a bad thing.
The good is obviously the experience they’ll bring into the domestic game.
Love them or hate them – and for several reasons the two aren’t exactly the most popular rugby men around – Meyer and White have produced a few world-class players and some big titles.
And in a country in which not only three of the four Super Rugby coaches are novices at that level, and the next best candidate to replace Rassie Erasmus was physiotherapist and former defence coach Jacques Nienaber, the coaching landscape could use a bit of Super Rugby and World Cup-winning gravitas.
The downside is the fact that, in the respective five and six years since Meyer and White coached locally, the system has either not unearthed people of similar coaching ability or deems the available talent as not good enough, and here I’m thinking of someone like Paul Treu.
For years now, the state of South Africa’s coaching system has become shambolic to the point where someone like Erasmus holds a messianic position as much for the fact that he’s a workaholic genius as that equally dynamic coaches are few and far between.
Someone like Jonathan Mokuena, a Varsity Cup-winner against juggernauts like Stellenbosch, currently does not have a job after parting ways with Pukke.
You’d think winning that competition gets him into conversations about coaches to keep an eye on in future.
But not only is he twiddling his thumbs doing mind-numbing punditry on TV, people with absolutely no coaching credentials are getting coaching jobs at Super Rugby level.
I’ve prattled on about this practically every week for a while now, but becoming a coach in South Africa has degenerated into a simple case of who you know, who likes you and at what level you’ve played.
Ironically, this is where the departing Zondagh comes in. In the 40 years he’s been involved in coaching, Zondagh has developed and mentored many coaches.
Why doesn’t Erasmus establish a functional coaches’ coaching wing at SA Rugby to be led by the likes of Zondagh, Brendan Venter, Treu or Peter Engledow (I’m suggesting the former Griquas coach because he was the coaches’ coach when he worked for the Rugby Football Union in England)?
Treu is not everyone’s cup of tea because he is rumoured to be prickly, but what’s the point of his sitting on a mountain of qualifications if they’re not going to be put to good use? It’s not as if our high-performance or coaching systems are teeming with people of his calibre.
The point of the coaching wing would be to put together a structured pathway to becoming a coach for the many people from all walks of life who stumble into coaching, offering them support along the way and establishing which hurdles need to be jumped over by a career coach or former player to arrive at the same place fairly.
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