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Searching for coaches amongst the pumpkins

Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 30 Mar 2012 at 09:30
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Given the recent news that Nick Mallet is a free agent again, the general consensus regarding the inadequacy/non-existence of the current specialist/assistant coaching setup at the Sharks, and the continuous debate over the qualities of our current head coach, I decided to give some thought as to what my ideal coaching structure should look like.

DISCLAIMER: Calling me a student of the game of rugby would be akin to calling Paris Hilton an expert on the finer minutiae of quantum physics. Lucky for you, as is the case with Paris, I’m not one to let a lack of knowledge or insight stand in the way of my need to hear my own voice (or see it in print). So just don’t start foaming at the mouth if you don’t agree with me; rather take it where it comes from, OK? OK, moving on.

So, without further ado, here’s how I would structure things at the Sharks if I were in charge:

1. Super Rugby Coach/Director of Rugby
The roles of DoR and Super Rugby coach should be collapsed into one. That way, the incumbent spends the first part of the year as a hands-on, getting-dirty-in-the-trenches coach whose job it is to steer the elite players at the union towards glorious victory in the toughest provincial rugby tournament in the world. It allows him to get to know the players on a first hand basis, and develop a feel for where player depth or quality is lacking. The latter half of the year can then be devoted to more strategic tasks; running the rule over the Currie Cup and junior squads, ensuring consistency of approach across the levels and implementing proper succession planning, development and fast-tracking structures; initiating appropriate recruitments (of both players and coaches); looking at ways to improve general skills levels in the organisation, and conducting the occasional exclusive interview with Sharksworld.

2. Vodacom Cup/Currie Cup Coach
In my idealised world, both these competitions should be coached by the same person. This would allow the coach to already assess and prepare players at the start of the year to step up in Currie Cup, given the inevitable loss of players from the Currie Cup squad to Springbok duty. It will also ensure continuity and consistency of approach from Vodacom Cup to Currie Cup, which should improve the chances of players making the transition successfully.

Of course, it could be argued that there is no continuity from Currie Cup to Super Rugby, which brings me to:

3. The Assistant Coaches
For the sake of brevity (and because I haven’t really thought about this as much as I would have you believe), I’ll only be looking at forwards/backline assistant coaches in this section and disregarding specialists such as defence-, mental- & kicking coaches etc.

Once again, in order to ensure consistency across all levels (which seems to work wonders for both the Stormers and Bulls), I would suggest that the Super Rugby assistant coaches also do duty in the Currie Cup, which should hopefully translate into a unified approach across the two competitions. Similarly, I would also suggest that the Vodacom Cup assistant coaches are utilised as head coaches of the U-19’s and U-21’s respectively, although admittedly I have no idea whether this is at all feasible or practical.

4. Specialist Coaches
As previously mentioned, specialist coaches fall outside the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that, in my opinion, in the modern era specialist coaches should be a non-negotiable, and while the Super Rugby and Currie Cup squads should be their main focus, they should be involved in all levels of the organisation.

Finally then, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and say that I believe that Nick Mallet would be a good candidate for the DoR/Super Rugby Coach position; he’s shown himself to be technically astute &, professional coach, and a capable administrator. Of course, it would mean suppressing the loathing I have felt towards him ever since the Teichmann debacle, but I reckon a few Super Rugby trophies could be the proverbial sugar to make that bitter pill go down.

John Plumtree’s record suggests that he would be the perfect Currie Cup/Vodacom Cup coach. Despite all the negative comments I’ve made, I also do believe he could be a successful Super Rugby coach, provided he had better supporting coaches, and embraced the need for expert assistance. I’m not convinced he’d be the right guy for DoR duties though; he seems to me to be more of a “on the field than in the corridors of power” kind of guy.

With regards to the remaining coaching positions, I don’t really know enough about the people currently out there, so I’ll leave that up to you, dear readers, to debate.


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