Cape rugby needs different coaches for different and new approaches
T was the start of the build-up to the new Currie Cup season, and there was Allister Coetzee, as friendly and engaging as he always is, present to address a press conference in which he outlined his plans for the domestic campaign.
I am not for one moment going to suggest I am tired of seeing or speaking to Coetzee, or that he is doing anything wrong. But it did cross my mind that it might be a mistake on the Western Province union’s part that Coetzee was sitting there at all.
We should have been speaking to another coach, with Coetzee doing over these coming months what a director of rugby should be doing – which is concentrating on the recruitment process while taking on a background role in helping the coaches of not just the senior team, but also the under-19 and under-21 teams.
Rassie Erasmus did that when he was operating in the capacity of WP senior professional coach, which was just another name for director of rugby, and if you look at the players who came through from the junior side he helped John Dobson coach to the national title in 2010 his contribution was inestimable.
Sadly his career in the Cape was bugged by injury, but I remember Nic Koster in particular being enthused by the special tuition that he received from Erasmus on aspects of No 8 play while he was playing for the WP under-21 team in 2010.
Maybe Coetzee has time to do that, but somehow I can’t see how you can be the man with his head on the block during the Currie Cup season, living on a weekly basis from one tough must-win game to the next, and still properly fulfil those other functions.
And we haven’t even mentioned recruitment, which is a time-consuming part of the job and a science all on its own.
Coetzee officially fills both positions – WP coach and director of rugby – but in conversation recently with former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold, who is now the Bath director of rugby, it became apparent that the term is being used very loosely in South Africa.
“There is a lot of movement in the United Kingdom at the moment on identifying exactly what a director of rugby does, and from my observations it does appear very different and more advanced to what is the case in South Africa at the moment,” said Gold.
“Apart from the central pillars of the business, which is that you have to play rugby and try and win, that the teams have to be coached in the sense of preparing moves and plays, and that you have to have a head coach that you are on the same wavelength with, recruitment is a separate and massive science all on its own.
I“In preparing myself for the directorship at Bath I set myself the task of making myself conversant with all aspects of recruitment, and it required exhaustive study.
“I made it my task to find out what the average age of a winning squad was and how many players you need in each position.
In England there are also quota issues relating to the number of players you need in the team that are qualified for England.
“You need to get that balance right when assembling your squad or you can get caught out badly.
“I set myself problems which I set up on slides and answered myself. There were 62 of them. For instance, what is the ideal in terms of the type of rugby you want to play? It’s pointless to have a star flyhalf on your books if he doesn’t fit into your style of play.
“So once you’ve established what you want to do, then you need to go out and find players who have the attributes you need. All of this is a very involved process and is a whole job all on its own.”
Of course professional rugby is also all about money. As Gold says, recruiting a young player from the schools and other feeder systems in your own area can save you considerably in the long run so there are benefits to be derived from taking a personal interest in what is happening at schools level.
Can you coach Super Rugby and Currie Cup and still manage all of that effectively?
The Sharks had John Plumtree do both, but then they had Rudolf Straeuli, in his capacity as the commercial manager, looking after recruitment. Now they have Brendan Venter joining them to help guide a new coach that is taking up position, Brad McLeod-Henderson, and Straeuli remains part of a pool of people, including CEO John Smit, who are looking after recruitment.
The Bulls haven’t done it for a long time, and while you could argue that they didn’t shape in the Currie Cup last year, that competition is these days about preparing for Super Rugby.
And if you look at where they are today, they did appear to get that right.
So of the big provinces/franchises, WP stand alone in having the same man do everything.