SA coaches and their in­su­lar ways

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xa­ban­isa [email protected]­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa MICHAEL VLISMAS [email protected]­

When Rassie Eras­mus was an­nounced as this year’s Bar­bar­ians coach, the rugby trag­ics among us won­dered what kind of team the man re­puted to be the most metic­u­lous coach in South Africa would pick with­out the usual cares that go with se­lect­ing a Spring­bok side.

Due to the abil­ity to pick play­ers from any­where, the com­po­si­tion of a Bar­bar­ian team is sup­posed to give an in­di­ca­tion of what kind of coach a coach is when al­lowed to let his hair down. It’s meant to ex­pose the dreamer within the coach when unen­cum­bered by hav­ing to put a squad to­gether to win and keep his job.

And when con­fronted with the rel­a­tive blank can­vas of hav­ing to pick a fan­tasy team, Eras­mus showed that he dreams in green and gold by se­lect­ing no less than 13 Spring­boks in the match day 23 to play against Ar­gentina at Twick­en­ham yes­ter­day.

Thir­teen Boks? What was the in­ten­tion for the Baabaas to pick and drive, kick an d chase and blitz de­fend to a two-point win over the Pu­mas with their Bok DNA? If that sounds a lit­tle dis­re­spect­ful to the Boks, it is not meant to be.

It’s just that we’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to them grind­ing teams down with pow­er­ful for­wards or build­ing a bak­ery from the crumbs of posses­sion they get from a worka­holic de­fence, in­stead of scor­ing tries from the end of the Earth like the 1973

Bar­bar­ians did against the All


Look­ing at the lack of big names in the rest of Eras­mus’ squad, there could be mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances be­hind why he chose such a Spring­bok Baabaas team.

The most ob­vi­ous would be that, with the game not be­ing a full in­ter­na­tional and tak­ing place beyond the in­ter­na­tional win­dow pe­riod, not many pro­vin­cial sides or clubs felt obliged to re­lease their play­ers.

This would have left Eras­mus with no choice but to load up on Boks as the most in­flu­en­tial man in South African rugby. The other rea­son, a con­spir­acy the­ory of sorts, is that he may well have wanted to use the match as ex­tra prepa­ra­tion time with his play­ers for next year’s World Cup.

Not to say there’s noth­ing but fun to be gained from play­ing a Bar­bar­ians game, the think­ing that Eras­mus is try­ing to sneak in an ex­tra match for his play­ers would only make sense if he had played all 13 of the play­ers in the start­ing line-up, which he ob­vi­ously couldn’t.

Be that as it may, this Baabaas episode has re­vealed how at­tached Eras­mus is to his “aligned” think­ing in how he has still sur­rounded him­self with peo­ple he trusts even for a smash and gig­gle hit out like yes­ter­day’s run against the Pu­mas.

Few peo­ple are as ob­sessed with hav­ing the same think­ing in his teams as Eras­mus, and the fact that Matt Proud­foot is the only coach he didn’t hand-pick in his man­age­ment team is con­fir­ma­tion of that.

In all fair­ness to Eras­mus, maybe it’s a South African coaches’ thing to only trust who they know.

We saw that with for­mer Spring­bok coach Jake White, who left so many South African play­ers at Mont­pel­lier that a month ago they had eight in their squad to play a Top 14 match de­spite hav­ing Frans Steyn and Jo­han Goosen in­jured.

For­mer Li­ons coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann con­tin­ues to re­vive the Leeus by sign­ing at least one of his for­mer play­ers per sea­son for his new club Glouces­ter, a team also nick­named the Li­ons, for good mea­sure. Heyneke Meyer, an­other for­mer Bok coach, looks to be in the throes of build­ing a lit­tle Pre­to­ria in Paris at Stade Français, his new team, if play­ing Morné Steyn at fly half and sign­ings like Han­dro Lieben­berg and An­dré Warner are any­thing to go by.

The most suc­cess­ful ex­po­nent of this was for­mer Bok cen­tre Bren­dan Ven­ter, who brought a heavy South African in­flu­ence while lay­ing the foun­da­tion that has seen the English club be­come the jug­ger­naut they are.

It’s not quite the New Zealand way, where they ex­port their brand of rugby coach­ing by work­ing with the lo­cals in­stead of fly­ing in their own “lo­cals”. This may also ex­plain why overseas coach­ing stints by South African coaches are not last­ing af­fairs, not to men­tion why we con­tinue not to learn from the rest of the world.

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The last time the SA Open was played at Rand­park Golf Club in 2000, Swe­den’s Math­ias Grön­berg be­came the sixth non-south­ern African to win the ti­tle since World War 2. It’s a mea­sure of how this cham­pi­onship and the world of golf has evolved that, from the past 10 SA Opens, six have been won by for­eign­ers.

An­other in­di­ca­tion of how the game has changed can be seen in the one SA Open record that will most likely not be bro­ken – Gary Player’s record 13 ti­tles are re­mark­able not only for the ob­vi­ous win per­cent­age, but also as a re­flec­tion of his com­mit­ment to this tour­na­ment at the peak of his play­ing pow­ers.

This week, South African golf’s fore­most cam­paign­ers will be at the new host course of Rand­park to show the kind of sup­port for their na­tional open that Player has al­ways ar­gued is crit­i­cal to the health of this pres­ti­gious cham­pi­onship.

Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Bran­den Grace and 2016 cham­pion Bran­don Stone will all be on the field.

The sec­ond-old­est na­tional open in golf has also made a sig­nif­i­cant move with the times – not only does it have a new venue in Rand­park and a new host in the City of Joburg, but, for the first time in its his­tory, the SA Open will be tri-sanc­tioned by the Sun­shine Tour, Euro­pean Tour and Asian Tour.

With this comes a field of 240 pro­fes­sion­als and the use of Rand­park’s two golf cour­ses in Firethorn and Bush­wil­low.

But one change the lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als will hope to curb is the in­creas­ing num­ber of for­eign names on the tro­phy.

In all fair­ness to Eras­mus, maybe it’s a South African coaches’ thing to only trust who they know

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