I recently started a thread on rating of coaches based on a number of factors 0 bu there are clearly three factors that came up in discussion and those are –
* The issue of how a good coach of rugby is rated in al codes of sport
* The game plan and the need for a 15 man usage both in attack and defense
* Player discipline
What makes a coach a good coach?
Rating of coaches in all formats of sport is based on the success of any coach in winning matches – and ultimately trophies. After all most codes of sport nowadays have been professionalized and depends on money being earned.
In a team game losing teams lose support and attendance of games and viewership on television decline with the result that sponsors do not get a reasonable return for their money in advertising value.
It is not what the game plan entails - it is not what happens during games it is what is on the scoreboard after the final whistle that is important,
It is not how the teams win as long as they have a good winning record and trophies in the cupboard that counts. More coaches had been fired because of this element than anything else and the sisue remains that there are only three coaches who won trophies on World Cup level amd also had other trophies to brag about.
Be is as it may coaches that never won any trophy on international level are a dead loss and we have a very long list of those.
The Game Plan
The AB’s for the past twenty years developed a game plan were all 15 players are involved in ball carries and defense. The forwards they picked must be adequate in tight phases of play – but must always have sufficient pace and ball skills to be competitive,
The situation in SA were vastly different – the SA Coaches bar Ian Mac, Du Plesssis and Erasmus were all addicted to the Tight 5 dominance concept. Forwards in general did not have the skill set and pace to be effective outside of Tight 5 performance. Fact is the SA coaches believed in a Tight 7 or 8 being required with very poor ball skills and pace deficiency being he norm rather than the exception.
The result of the above caused problems for the Springboks in particularly one aspect of the game – namely the scoring of tries. Compared to other international teams the Springboks scored very few tries. The problem was that tryscoring by the backline players depended entirely o eersoal brilliace than on a team effort.
Since the forwards lacked the skills there were a serious deficiency – namely the use of the ten-man game predominated the game played by SA and the fact is that the backline play routinely ended with the flyhalf who kicked the balls or the inside center who crashballed, Two many of the kicks made were aimless and possession handovers were normal.
Where the tests SA played in the Springboks won the games too often the team scored less tries than the opposition or no tries a all.
Coming from the Sharks Ian Mac tried to change the situation and failed, The reason was that the players from the other franchise and provinces had no idea as to the playing of any game other than the one they were used to. He could not get the players to adjust too any toer game plan than the one they played for their provinces.
Du Plessis came out initially and stated that the problem with Springbok rugby was their inability to be competitive with other international teams because they struggled in scoring of tries. He said clearly that forwards must have ball skills and be able to score tries as well. He faced the same problem as Ian Mac. The skill set of the layers and in particular the forwards were sub-standard, He did succeed in getting a new team in place who would be able to contribute to scoring of tries. For example in the Lions series in 1997 the Springboks scored 9 tries compared to the 3 tries scored by the BRI Lions. Du Plessis put a squad together and did the coaching needed – a squad inherited by Mallett and used by him for 18 months before the bottom fell out because of replacement problems and his inability to get the new players to the level where Du Plessis did,
As to Erasmus he also uses the 15 man game to the fullest, Two excellent examples are the two tries scored in the 2019 WC final – the first tries ever in the three WC Finals SA were involved in, In both cases the tries were scored by the wings, but the ball handling involved two forwards in the process. In the 2015 season the Springboks scored 33 tries in 11 games played and of those 16 were scored by backline players and 17 by the forwards, There was very little involvement of forwards in backline attacking moves. In 2019 the Springboks scored 51 tries – 34 by backline players and 17 by forwards. Unlike previous seasons the Springbok forwards were greqiently involved in attacking play and played a critical role im scoring of tries,
I sincerely believe that discipline is an integral part of coaching. Allow me to give you an example.
I can remember that there used to be an Eater weekend club competition in Durban each year, The fact is that during the 1977 series Rob Louw was playing at the time for Maties and got a message that he would like to see me. So a friend of mine and myself went to the Hotel where all the teams were staying on the Monday morning before the final later that day between Tukkies and Maties.
When we got to the Hotel the Tukkies players were all over the reception area – there were no Matie players in sight. We sat down talking to Chris Faure – the Tukkie Captain chatting to him and there also was a very nice and shy 19 year old Baas Botha. Anyway they told us that the Maties players are in a team talk under Dr Danie Craven - the Maties coach at the time. Eventually the lift door opened and out came Dr Craven followed by Jan Boland Coetzee and the rest of the team. Doc Craven came over to where we sat and told Faure that they would have no problem in beating Maties that day – since he has due to injuries a poor Matie team available. Needless to say the Maties beat the Tukkies 27 – 6.
I went over to meet and talk to Rob, He was literally shivering and he told me that at the team talk Doc Craven spoke to each player for about 10 minutes – he was not ill, he was psyched up.
He moral of the story is that Dr Craven was a strict disciplinarian, but the players had a massive admiration for him and would walk through a wall to not let him down.
Unfortunately in the modern era discipline maintenance in the case of some coaches tool a nasty turn. The famous Kamp Staaldraad is a case of a classic Sergeant Major militaristic approach that discredit Straueli and the players hated his guts – there was zero loyalty lived and when playing they went through the motions - no extra effort,
Jake White is also a strict disciplinarian – but also on the wrong end of the stick. He treated the players like school children with no respect to them as professional players, What was wrong was not the discipline concept, but rather the way he applied discipline. The end result was the same as with Straueli - a very real dislike by the players of their coach. That was clearly the case when he was the Springbok coach, but became much clearer at the Sharks. No extra effort in his case,
From a rating perspective a very real and rather negative perspective on White as a coach.
By the way Erasmus is more like Dr Craven – a strict disciplinarian but greatly admired by the players, . They will go all the way not to disappoint him as their coach.