New Bok as­sis­tant coaches get the nod

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­

For­mer Spring­bok as­sis­tant coach John McFar­land has given his seal of ap­proval to Al­lis­ter Coetzee’s new­est lieu­tenants, Franco Smith and Bren­dan Venter.

SA Rugby an­nounced the ap­point­ment of the one half (Smith) of the pair on Mon­day, with Venter ex­pected to be named soon.

Smith has built the Chee­tahs from a team made up largely of Var­sity Cup play­ers into Cur­rie Cup cham­pi­ons, while Venter is known for putting in place the foun­da­tions that have made English club side Sara­cens the mon­ster it has be­come – his lesser claim to fame be­ing de­vis­ing Italy’s in­ge­nious ruck strat­egy against Eng­land in the Six Na­tions last Sun­day.

The for­mer Bulls as­sis­tant coach, who is now do­ing the same job with the Ja­panese club side Kub­ota Spears, said while it will not be enough to turn the Boks’ for­tunes around, hir­ing the for­mer Spring­bok cen­tres was a start.

“They [the Boks] ob­vi­ously need peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence, have won tro­phies and have rep­u­ta­tions. As­sis­tant coaches must have ex­pe­ri­ence and cred­i­bil­ity. Bren­dan has a lot of in­flu­ence with coaches he has men­tored, and both have re­cently won Cur­rie Cup ti­tles,” said McFar­land.

With the loom­ing mid-year test se­ries against France im­por­tant as it will lead to a de­ci­sion on whether Coetzee stays in his job or not, McFar­land said Venter will come in handy.

McFar­land said he also ex­pected Venter’s pres­ence to be help­ful to Coetzee as they who co­or­di­nated the re­cent rugby ind­abas – the Bok coach called for them and the 1995 World Cup win­ner fa­cil­i­tated them.

The most im­por­tant thing about the ap­point­ments, McFar­land said, was the strength they were bring­ing to their roles: “What is re­ally good for Al­lis­ter is that both are used to be­ing head coaches, and the real nitty-gritty coach­ing is done by the as­sis­tant coaches.

“They are the ones who do one on ones with the play­ers, and the head coach man­ages them and maps out the team’s phi­los­o­phy. Al­lis­ter is gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and cred­i­bil­ity, and ob­vi­ously strong char­ac­ters be­cause they are for­mer head coaches.”

Re­gard­ing the de­vo­lu­tion of roles, which led to the kind of fin­ger-point­ing that left pre­vi­ous as­sis­tant coaches Chean Roux and Mzwandile Stick in the lurch, McFar­land said it was im­por­tant that there was clar­ity even though it was nat­u­ral that there would be con­stant over­laps.

“In my time, I was in charge of de­fence and the kick chase,” he said. “I worked closely with [Bok line-out coach] Jo­hann [van Graan] on restarts and how to get out of our own half. Some­times I would work with the back line coach, who would repli­cate our op­po­nents’ moves against us.

“There is al­ways a cross­ing over of the path­ways, but it is im­por­tant to have clear ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity – and peo­ple have to take ad­vice.”

Af­ter a year in which the Boks won an un­prece­dented four of 12 games, McFar­land said he had been en­cour­aged by the lit­tle he had seen of the coun­try’s Su­per Rugby sides.

“There is a huge dif­fer­ence – our play­ers are in re­ally good shape,” he said. “I have been to the Storm­ers and the Bulls, and some of the play­ers look to be in the best shape of their lives. What struck me is how lean they are look­ing.

“You can see there is a def­i­nite shift in mind­set – the play­ers have em­braced play­ing dif­fer­ently and it has prob­a­bly come from the ind­abas.”

McFar­land said he would like to see SA Rugby ap­point a di­rec­tor of coach­ing to nur­ture young coaches: “I re­ally feel we need some­one to men­tor these guys. If you look at Eng­land, they have a guy who men­tors all their young coaches.”

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