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Ken Borland

Win or lose, some coaches just can’t win 0

Posted on February 06, 2017 by Ken


There is an unfortunate tendency in South African sport that a coach sometimes cannot win whether his team are losing or winning. We’ve seen it before with former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and now with current Proteas coach Russell Domingo.

It’s the unfortunate attitude that if a team is losing – as the Proteas were for 2015 and the first half of 2016 – then it must be the coach’s fault, but if they are winning, as Domingo’s charges are currently and the Springboks did under De Villiers in 2009, then it must have nothing to do with the coach and be all the players’ doing!

If people are going to blame and criticise the coach during the lean times then they have to credit and praise the coach when things are going well. His influence cannot just extend in the one direction.

Domingo gets to be seen way less on television than the Springbok rugby coach, so perhaps he has less opportunity to convey his knowledge of the game, but it was disturbing last weekend when Cricket South Africa dropped what can only be termed a bombshell. They were going to be taking applications for his position and he would need to reapply himself. It’s like being in a relationship and being told “it’s time we see other people”.

I have been a critic of Domingo in the past, believing he was no longer able to get the best out of the Proteas, but their form in the last six months has been superb and clearly the coach has them all pulling in the same direction.

A 5-0 limited-overs whitewash of Australia and a Test series win Down Under, without AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, rank amongst some of the finest achievements in South African cricket history, and so far Sri Lanka have been dealt with ruthlessly, save for the T20s when some experimentation took place.

But CSA believe now is the time to say we need to start looking for another coach!

I agree, depending on how results go in the Champions Trophy and the Tests in England, that August may be time for a change given that Domingo will have been in the job for four years, but what if he wins the ICC event and then beats the Poms on their home turf? If he wants to continue, surely he would be the obvious choice?

Sure, you have to plan ahead and put out some feelers to see who Domingo’s successor will be, particularly if things go badly in England. But you don’t have to announce to the whole world that you are no longer sure about the guy who is currently doing a great job with the team.

Having been told quite clearly that uncertainty about the future was a major reason for players and coaches leaving South Africa, you would have thought CSA would be doing everything in their power to reassure a Proteas team and management that they have security, given how well they have been doing.

The talk from official sources has been that CSA don’t want to create the impression that Domingo will automatically just keep getting contract extensions – it’s all to do with the fine print of the labour regulations apparently – but the gap between the end of the trip to England (the last Test ends on August 8) and the start of the new summer with the first Test against Bangladesh starting on September 28 is surely long enough to sort out whatever the decision is.

Of course the list of possible replacements needs to be sussed out, but why does the post of Proteas head coach need to be advertised? Surely the successor to Domingo should be headhunted?

Particularly since the obvious next coach is working just across the road from the CSA offices at the Wanderers.




Meyer’s planning & mental skills set him apart – Spies 0

Posted on July 06, 2012 by Ken

Pierre Spies has served the Springboks under Jake White, Peter de Villiers and now Heyneke Meyer, and the eighthman says South Africa’s newest coach’s strengths of precise planning and mental skills will keep the team moving forward.

“It’s been a great privilege to play under three Springbok coaches now and they’ve all had a significant impact on my career,” Spies tells Midi Olympique at his home fortress of Loftus Versfeld.

“Heyneke has such amazing plans set out for the team and has a great pride in the Springbok jersey. He is someone who really enjoys the psychological side of things and he always has an interesting story to tell which motivates the players.

“That’s what makes him special and also that he is such a meticulous planner.”

Spreading the ball wide is not a major feature of the Meyer plan and Spies explains that this was because he wanted the Springboks to play to their strengths – massive forwards who can carry the ball and dominate the tight phases.

“It’s important for us to get momentum, to build pressure and then convert that into points, because that’s what rugby is about. The result is all that matters,” Spies says.

The Springboks began the Meyer era with a 2-0 series win over England, but the final Test was drawn 14-14 in Port Elizabeth with the home side struggling to match the hunger and intensity of the visitors.

“It’s important that we learn from the last game, but I think the series as a whole went really well. We were together as a group for just three weeks and it was a massive challenge because England had been together for the whole Six Nations and were desperate for the result.

“We had to work really hard, but Heyneke and the management team planned things properly and we were able to build and lay a good foundation for the Rugby Championship,” Spies says.

While the 27-year-old believes the Springboks can only get better, he adds that England have sent out a clear message that they are gearing up well for another World Cup challenge on home turf in 2015.

“England have some great players and if they can keep this squad together for a few more years, then they will definitely be a threat at the next World Cup,” Spies says.

“But we’ve also laid a good foundation. England were definitely fresher than us and had much better preparation because we came straight off SuperRugby, while they played Six Nations together and then had a break.

“That’s why it was such a good result for us. We hadn’t played together for a while and the only way for us to get better is by playing together,” Spies says.

The former wing is heading into a crunch game for his Bulls team on Friday night when they take on the Sharks in Durban. Defeat for Spies and his men will signal the end of the road for their hopes of topping the South African Conference.

But even so, it has still been an impressive campaign for the Bulls, considering they have lost so much experience with the departures of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gary Botha and Derick Kuhn.

“As a group, at the beginning of the season, we looked at the calendar and set goals for ourselves. Even though we lost a lot of experience, we still have the right mix of youth and talent and experience. Hopefully this will set us up for the years ahead.

“The management group has set us up nicely for the final run-in now and we’re heading into an exciting part of the tournament. There’s a lot at stake, but we must just focus on our play and our processes.”

With the changing of the guard at Loftus Versfeld, Spies was given the captaincy and the committed Christian has handled the added responsibility relatively easily.

“It’s a journey on which I learn every day. I’m just very proud to be part of such a talented group. There’s a great environment created by the management and the culture around the players is very special.

“It’s a great honour and I learn a lot every day. Hopefully I’ll be captain for a few more seasons,” Spies says.

With the publication of his autobiography, More than Rugby, last year, Spies revealed an impressive ability to rise above hardship – the loss of his father when he was still a teenager and injuries that kept him out of the U19 World Championship and the 2007 World Cup with a potentially career-ending blood condition.

So it is no surprise that he still believes the Bulls have a date with destiny with the SuperRugby final on August 4.

“Our mentality is the same as always, we want to win every game.”

And after that comes the Rugby Championship, which the Springboks will finish on October 6 at the stunning FNB Stadium in Soweto, the venue for the 2010 Soccer World Cup final.

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