When those you discard beat you badly
It was while trying to turn rumours into fact that I came across a surprising item that everyone seems to have missed. First the rumours. With three of South Africa’s Super Rugby coaches – Frans Ludeke, Allister Coetzee and Naka Drotské – vacating their posts, rugby’s grapevine is sprouting out possible replacements by the day.
Jake White’s name hasn’t been thrown into the hat (yet), but this, among many other things, is what I was hearing: Former All Black and Golden Lions coach John Mitchell, who lives in KwaZulu-Natal, was being lined up for the Sharks before Gary Gold announced that he would not be leaving after all, while his compatriot, John Plumtree, who was brusquely dumped by the Sharks, may be taking over the Stormers.
Plumtree has done exceptionally well in his role as the Hurricanes’ assistant coach this season, but is said to fancy a return to warmer climes. There is a curveball, though. The Stormers apparently have also been in talks with Johann van Graan, the Springboks’ forwards coach and trusted analyst, to move out from the shadow of Heyneke Meyer and take on a team of his own.
However, there is a problem. The Bulls apparently are also keen on Van Graan as part of a duo with Victor Matfield … that is if Meyer’s contract with the Boks is not renewed and he becomes available.
As is the case in all team sports, the franchises are being cagey about who might be asked to put pen to paper, so all we know for sure is that Franco Smith is taking over the Cheetahs.
Now for the fact. Wanting to laud the Hurricanes ( for their excellent showing in the Super Rugby tournament and also pass a plaudit to their understated coach, Chris Boyd, I discovered he should in fact be quite well known to us.
Boyd was at the Sharks in the 2009 and 2010 seasons as Plumtree’s assistant, and the two have switched roles at the Hurricanes.
So while the Sharks have slipped to 11th on the table, their discards have guided the Hurricanes to the top.
And when you delve into Boyd’s background, you discover that he has indeed walked the walk when it comes to coaching. But has clearly, being the modest man that he is, not talked the talk.
Plumtree and Boyd previously worked together with the Wellington Lions, the main feeder team of the Hurricanes, in New Zealand’s national provincial championship tournament from 2003 to 2006.
Boyd cut his teeth at the Wellington club Tawa and was involved with many of New Zealand’s age-group teams before taking over the assistant’s role at the Wellington Lions.
He was the defence and skills coach for Tonga at the 2011 rugby World Cup and, since 2012, has been head coach of the Lions and involved with the New Zealand Under-20s.
He is clearly an astute coach with a wealth of experience and, crucially for the Canes, possesses a good knowledge of the young talent in New Zealand.
The latter attribute was borne out by debut All Black call-ups for two players – lock James Broadhurst and fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder – who he spotted at Taranaki and Manawatu, respectively, and drafted into the Hurricanes.
There’s a lesson for all coaches in remarks he made when first put in charge of the Hurricanes: “Our main focus is to create a brand of football that people find attractive to watch, and develop a team that people want to get behind.”
Isn’t that what it is all about?
OUT IN THE COLD Thozama April has been banned for two years