Where have all the good coaches gone?
OPINION: Earlier this week RugbyPass columnist Tom Vinicombe penned an engaging article about New Zealand coaches. It got me thinking.
The Vinicombe composition was, in essence, an eulogium for Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and the virtues of their most successful coaches.
However, what struck me is the attributes he listed for those Kiwi coaches.
They all have tactical and strategic knowledge, are expert people managers and – most of all – many of them have a background as schoolmasters.
Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie, who took the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013, is a great example of teacher-cum-coach.
Rennie also became the first first-year Super Rugby coach to win the competition.
“Teaching, coaching, it’s the same thing,” Rennie said, adding: “The kids are just a bit bigger.”
Vinicombe also points out that most of New Zealand’s top coaches never set the world alight as players.
Graham Henry, who coached the All Blacks to a World Cup title in 2011, is probably the best example of a school teacher-cum-coach.
You can draw parallels between New Zealanders and South Africa’s two most successful coaches – Kitch Christie and Jake White.
The two World Cup-winning mentors, Christie (1995) and White (2007), were indeed astute rugby brains.
As with the long list of top Kiwi coaches, they also had tactical and strategic knowledge, were expert people managers and – in the case of White, has a background as a schoolmaster.
George Moir Christie, affectionately known as Kitch, famously did an ‘ambulance job’ with the Springboks to win the ’95 World Cup and has the rare distinction of having remained unbeaten during his tenure.
His people skills are still being talked about in enamoured tones by the players who played for Christie.
Add to that his enthusiasm and passion, as well as his ardour for fitness and discipline.
Where Christie worked his way through the club ranks, White progressed through the schools and junior systems.
White began his coaching career as a high school coach at Parktown Boys’ High, before he returned to his alma mater Jeppe High School. He was then appointed as provincial schools coach, working with various Under-19 and Under-21 teams, before progressing to an assistant position on Nick Mallet’s Springbok coaching panel.
His real progress started as an assistant coach to the South African U21 side and then as head coach of the SA U21 side that won the Junior World Cup in 2002. In 2000 and 2001 he was also an assistant to Harry Viljoen at the Springboks.
The question has to be asked: ‘Is there such pathways for current coaches in South Africa?’
Indeed, where will the next generation of ‘teachers’ come from to guide young players to world glory?
* I am not going to republish Tom Vinicombe’s column here. To read it, CLICK HERE!
By Jan de Koning