An interesting new dynamic has emerged in the hunt for the new Springbok coach with Rassie Erasmus’s chances apparently now being hurt for the ironic reason that he could be too valuable for the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to lose in his current position of general manager of the rugby department.
Saru use Erasmus and his brilliant rugby brain to devise just about everything surrounding the professional game in South Africa, be it systems to successfully identify, develop and monitor players and coaches, the off-field logistics and planning required for high-performance teams, technical analysis, medical care and safety and even the referees.
There are some in Saru who are apparently acutely aware that the position of Springbok coach has been one in which talented men are used and abused and then discarded. To paraphrase The Doors: “Nobody gets outta here alive!”
It normally takes a few years of recovery (maybe it should be therapy!) before a former Springbok coach is rehabilitated enough to return to the frontlines of the game; Ian McIntosh has served as a national selector for several years, Nick Mallett is now a popular television pundit and Rudolf Straeuli is the CEO of the Golden Lions, but where are the seven other living coaches?
And so Saru are faced with something of a dilemma … are the skills of Erasmus more valuable and likely to be in service for longer if he stays behind the scenes in an “office job”? Obviously the former Springbok captain has the technical and tactical know-how to succeed as the national coach in what must be an interesting time of rebuilding and renewal.
But does he have the desire to handle the off-field pressures and demands of the job? The abuse of his family when things don’t go well, all the fronting up on television and to the media he will be expected to do, the long weeks away from home …
For a foreigner to take on the “poisoned chalice”, one would need to add to the above list of drawbacks being able to handle the internal politics of Saru, which are busy eating their CEO, Jurie Roux, alive, and the external politics of transformation demands. There is apparently also a recognition now within Saru that a foreigner would not be a wise choice for head coach given the peculiarities of the job in a South African context. A top-class overseas figure may yet get a call-up as a consultant or as a member of the back-up coaching staff.
A final decision on who the new Springbok coach is can only be made by a meeting of the General Council and their next scheduled gathering is for the AGM on April 1. Let’s hope a fool is not appointed.
Speaking of fools, there have been some misguided reports doing the rounds suggesting that Roux (not a fool) has somehow been “punished” by no longer being the man in charge of headhunting the new Springbok coach.
The fact of the matter is that the Elite Player Development Committee is, and has always been, in charge of the search for Heyneke Meyer’s successor, and this has been confirmed to me personally by Lions president Kevin de Klerk, who sits on that committee.
Once they come up with a potential candidate, then Roux will get involved in terms of negotiating the contract.
But the false reports stem from the same sources that clearly have an agenda to drive against the CEO, judging by the thoroughly unprofessional tweets they sent out during the SuperRugby launch on Thursday.
Objective journalism, now there’s a concept.