When braai con­ver­sa­tions turn to one-on-ones

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa sports@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

A cou­ple of months ago, Public Ser­vice and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi caused some­thing of a stir by not only ad­mit­ting that she’d hired nine rel­a­tives to work in her depart­ment, but also won­der­ing out loud in Par­lia­ment what was wrong with do­ing so.

It was a shrug of the shoul­ders that all but re­sulted in Muthambi’s mugshot mak­ing its way into the dic­tio­nary along­side the en­try for the word ‘nepo­tism’.

Yet when it was an­nounced this week that Western Prov­ince’s Rob du Preez would join his fa­ther Robert and broth­ers Jean-Luc and Dan in Dur­ban next sea­son, there was hardly a shrug in rugby cir­cles about the move, de­spite the Sharks start­ing to look like the Du Preez fam­ily busi­ness.

Maybe it was be­cause the move had been mooted for most of the sea­son, but hav­ing Du Preez coach all three of his sons brings up the ques­tion of when ap­point­ing fam­ily mem­bers is nepo­tism and when it isn’t?

The dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of the word is “the prac­tice among those with power or in­flu­ence of favour­ing rel­a­tives or friends, es­pe­cially by giv­ing them jobs”.

In all fair­ness to the Du Preez clan, Robert Se­nior found twins Jean-Luc and Dan in the Sharks sys­tem by the time he took over as head coach, so Robert Ju­nior is the first fam­ily sign­ing he has made since go­ing back to Dur­ban.

Fly half Rob was the top points scorer in the Cur­rie Cup and over­shad­owed his op­po­site num­ber Cur­win Bosch in help­ing Prov­ince win last week­end’s fi­nal, while the twins are Spring­boks.

But the strict def­i­ni­tion of nepo­tism hardly fac­tors in per­for­mance once the job has changed hands. Be­sides, the thing about pro­fes­sional sports­men is that they need two things to thrive – am­ple op­por­tu­nity and back­ing from the coach. If said coach hap­pens to be your old man, there’s no short­age of faith. An ex­am­ple of this is how young Dan started the Su­per Rugby sea­son in­jured with Tera Mtembu play­ing num­ber eight for the Sharks. Once he was fully fit, he came on dur­ing half­time and hasn’t looked back.

A more acute case of this back­ing has to be for­mer Lions coach Johan Ack­er­mann with his son Ruan. Not con­tent with in­tro­duc­ing him into the Lions Su­per Rugby squad when he was just 20, Johan took Ruan with him when he got his job with Glouces­ter in Eng­land.

Talk about keep­ing a close eye on your laaitie’s de­vel­op­ment.

But what is a fa­ther sup­posed to do? As a dad, you have one job – give your chil­dren ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. If you’re a rugby coach and they hap­pen to play rugby, surely di­rectly over­see­ing their ca­reer is the eas­i­est way to do it?

But in South African rugby, it al­most feels like hav­ing rel­a­tives in the sys­tem (the right ones, any­way) in­vari­ably means a guar­an­teed path to the big time.

A most re­cent case in point is Di­van Stry­dom, the son of for­mer Bulls man­ager Wynie Stry­dom. Un­til New Zealan­der John Mitchell joined the Bulls, Di­van was the Bulls’ tech­ni­cal an­a­lyst and kick­ing coach, and was moved to the ju­nior teams’ kick­ing coach and han­dler of team public re­la­tions and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

There’s a prece­dent in this re­gard for the Bulls in that for­mer Spring­bok as­sis­tant coach Jo­hann van Graan was tech­ni­cal an­a­lyst at the fran­chise when his fa­ther, Barend, was chief ex­ec­u­tive. But should Van Graan Ju­nior, hav­ing proven to be good at his job, mean a tem­plate for hir­ing the sons of the other fa­thers work­ing for the union?

The way rugby is go­ing is that it is fast be­com­ing the fam­ily busi­ness for a se­lect, not to men­tion con­nected, few.

That may not be an is­sue for some, but try telling Tera Mtembu and Cur­win Bosch they get the same oneon-ones with the head coach as Rob and Dan do.

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