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Arlecchino

A post of mine on Facebook in 2012

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Charles Morton

September 9, 2012 · 

Yes I am ticked about our failure to put a really poor Wallaby team away. We had them by the throat and we were the ones that choked. The try we butchered in the first half was something you see in thre Currie Cup B-Section.
However it is not that we ended up being beaten by a poor team so much as the way that our rugbyn has gone backwards.
If we are completely honest, the All Blacks have been just about the best team on the Planet for more years that I care to dwell on. Of course they have their detractors who will be howling their derision right now, but if we are honest, the ABs are the team to beat - they are the benchmark.


It is their consistency of performance that I most admire. There has not been a "weak" All Black team that I can ever remember.
But this posting is not about the ABs, it is about South African rugby.


I recall Eddie Jones saying when he was the Wallaby coach, that when the Springboks got their coaching woes sorted out, the rest of World Rugby would be playing for 2nd place. He made this statment with the pool of potential athletic players that we have in SA.


The difference between the AB setup and South African Rugby is at administrative level. The NZRU has one united purpose and that is to be the best. All of their Unions are united under central contracts and their coaches have a unified ethos. John Kirwan will very easily slip back into the ways of New Zealand Rugby as coach of Aukland because he understands the plan and can chant the mantra.


John Mitchell is certainly not the best of the recent batch of New Zealand coaches and it is perhaps true to say that 2003 was a really low point. But the team that lost the semi-final to a Stirling Mortlock intercept try from a wild Carlos Spencer pass was not a "bad" team. They were poorly coached.


During Graham Henry's tenure this nation has thoroughly embraced the professional era . They have thrown out the "booze culture" that was once part of their manly approach to rugby and have become dedicated athletes. Even after the debacle of the Mitchell era, the coaching structures did not show massive changes in the style or desire to play really good attractive attacking rugby football. 
Unlike New Zealand, South Africa changes coaches for more political reasons than those of sport and with the changes come new pressures. Coaches and in fact whole regions are separated by culture, ethos and mindset. There is no solidarity of purpose in the ranks of SARU and the leadership at the top of rugby is based on the ability to survive politically, not on the record of their service to this great game.


People like Jannie Engelbrecht, Frik du Preez, Morne du Plessis, Nick Mallett and Jake White have served our great sport with determination and dedication and have been either ignored or maligned.


New Zealand rugby does not suddenly go into decline when a coach retires, it may take on a slightly different or perhaps fresh approach, but the style of their play and the purpose with which they play it remains the same.


It is therefore not really Heyneke Meyer's fault that he has a team of individuals running round the park not knowing what to do. Gary Teichman said the same after Andre Markgraaf was disgracefully led into a suicidal trap by Andre Bestbier. Carel du Plessis was trying to bring together a team from completely different rugby cultures. That was not his fault. Nick Mallett found the same problems and when he had managed rto unite the team he was brought down and then we had the Straeuli era.


We lurch from one coach to the next and it takes almost 4 years before the team is capable of stringing together a respectable series of wins. Even when the coach wins the greatest prize in rugby, it is unlikely that he will be shown any thanks.


What is the solution? At grassroots level the clubs must take back their game and demand leaders of rugby culture not politicians. At the top of the playing spectrum a National Director of Coaching should be appointed to unify the way the Springbok brand of rugby is played and taught throughout the land.


Nick Mallet may just be the sort of man to take on such a task. 


Will we ever get to the point where such a suggestion is worth debating? Don't hold your breath. 


In the meantime Meyer will continue to try to express his brand of rugby with players who come from completely different brands of rugby culture. It will take years and even then we are only guaranteed of one certaintly - a new coach.

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