After Allister Coetzee’s axing two weeks ago, Rassie Erasmus has taken on the imposition of interim Springbok coach up until the World Cup in 2019. After the World Cup, a new head coach is expected to be appointed, with Erasmus reverting back to the Director of Rugby role.
The interesting question at the point of writing is who is the best suited to take on the important role of Springbok coach? Tank Lanning, known as Front Row Grunt on Twitter and a former Western Province Prop, believes that the front-runner to the Springbok job is Deon Davids, the current Southern Kings coach.
For many reasons, I believe this is a bad idea. To start off, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) would be making yet another Springbok coach appointment without opening the position up to applications from coaches across the globe. This was one of the problems with appointing Allister Coetzee, in that SARU would hand pick a head coach and offer only one person the job, thus removing the competitive aspects of appointing a new coach, making the new coach complacent in their role.
Apart from the issues with hand selecting a coach without accepting applications, the issues with Deon Davids as the preferred option are clear. Firstly, the Southern Kings, under Davids, have been poor in finishing matches and have not won more than three matches over the past two years. While it is obvious that the Kings have had several issues with keeping quality players from season to season, with Makazole Mapimpi being the most notable recent loss the Kings have suffered.
However, Davids’ chargers have not helped to instill the confidence of the rugby public in Davids. Since their involvement in the Pro14 the Kings have put in some good performances against the European teams, however, they have never truly come close toppling even the so-called “minnow teams” from Italy. This is very worrying, as the quality of players at the Kings is not so poor as to cause them to put together such a poor string of performances.
By contrast, coaches such as Johan Ackermann for the Lions in 2012 have taken similarly poor performing teams, made up of mainly “no-name” players, and transformed them into a winning and dominant team. The Lions were languishing in limbo after they were relegated from Super Rugby, with no real plans of how to move forward, when Ackermann took over. The Lions also lost a large number of players in those months, however, Ackermann took the side he had, built a team culture and just two years later, they were in the Super Rugby Final.
Obviously, the lions were in a different financial state than the Kings, however Davids has proven that while he is a good coach, he is not capable of turning around a losing team. SARU would do well to look at oversees based coaches, although the ultimate goal would be to open up the position for these coaches to apply, rather than specific selections.