Jun 23 • General News, Super Rugby • 2488 Views • Comments Off on SHOULD WE HAVE RUGBY COACHES OR MANAGERS

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Written by: David van der Merwe – @djvanman on twitter

The Super Rugby season has come to an end for South African rugby supports after the Brumbies destroyed the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. This was not unexpected as the South African sides performed dismally this season. The Stormers should never have been in the paly-offs in the first place. Their log points had them placed 7th overall. Only a farcical rule of SANZAR that the top team in each conference goes through, insured that at least one SA side would be represented in the play-offs.

The question is why did the South African teams do so badly in a competition that on two occasions and as recent as 2010 saw two of our sides compete in the final? The answer might look simple. Game plans are out dated. Yet we have some of the world’s most exciting players. Why then is this not showing on the field? In my view the answer is our coaching style and methodology.

Let us look at why I am saying this. The Bulls played very one dimensional rugby this season. They had plan A but it didn’t look like they ever worked on plan B. A lot was said about their back up plan but this just look like a different version of plan A. instead of kick, chase and rumble it u with the forwards, they went rumble it up with the forwards, kick and chase. The Stormers defended like crazy and kept their discipline in tact but on attack lacks intensity. They have a back three that can probably out run Hussain Bolt yet the guys get the ball and kick it away.

The Sharks have massive discipline issues and then the players are also not doing what they do best. Here I believe it is more than just a coaching issue but that is for another time to discuss. The Cheetahs attack like crazy, but defend like they are playing touch rugby. Players are again not playing to their strengths or at least they haven’t been for most of the season.

Looking at layers like Jan Serfontein, Hanre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux and Jessie Kriel it becomes clear that there is a massive coaching problem. Serfontein and Pollard got their current contracts because they were seen as players that has vision. They played with a flair and kept their opponents guessing at u/20 level.  The same players now play against them and they seem ordinary.

Kriel still shows some sort of flair and a step that is deceivable but for how long? Willie looked like a player that was out of his depth for most of the season until he got the freedom he needed from new Cheetahs coach, Franco Smith. Kolbe kicks more than a soccer player and run less than a 90 year old man stuck to his bed. The same can be said from many players in the sides.

The Lions is the only side where it seems the players are allowed to play the game as they see it on the field. Yet they do have a game plan but the players are allowed to adjust this plan as the game unfolds. I don’t have anything against game plans but players should be able to play their natural game and play what is in front of them not what the coach thinks should be in front of them.

Now I am going to say something that may shock many and get me crucified on the spot: “Our coaches should have a session with Gary Kirsten.” He won the cricket World Cup in 2011 with India, this without having had any coaching experience before taking the reins with India. He methodology was easy and simple.

Gary said the following in a motivational speech I had the pleasure of listening to:

“ I took over and immediately realised that I could not teach these guys to play cricket. How do you teach Sachin Tendulkar to play cricket. He has been playing for 15-20 years. I realised I should managed them and give them what they as players needed. I became a friend to Tendulkar. For Ghambir I became a motivator. I adjusted to each player and managed their personal needs instead of trying to teach them the game.”

Yes, rugby is not cricket, but I believe we should have the same methodology when it cames to coaching rugby. When a player reaches provincial level he should be able to play the game and do the basics right. From here a coach should manage the player and allow him to play the style that got him selected in the first place. Yes, come up with moves and plans but instead of tryin to coach players to play to your game plan rather adjust your game plan to the players you have.

In soccer you don’t have coaches but managers. It is time we move the same way in rugby.

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