Cape rugby needs dif­fer­ent coaches for dif­fer­ent and new ap­proaches

Satur­day Comment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

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.

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