Why Nigel Owens is torn over Bok job
SPOTLIGHT: Former Test referee Nigel Owens revealed that he is torn between the possibility of working with the Springboks and his commitments in Wales.
South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed recently that he has been in contact with Owens about the latter’s possible inclusion in the Springboks’ coaching panel for the upcoming World Cup in France.
The Springboks are looking to add a referee coach and Owens is seen as the preferred candidate for the job.
The Welsh-based farmer has now explained he is conflicted about what to do – to take six months away from his current way of life and throw everything in with helping the Springboks or turn down the offer to be involved at another World Cup.
Owens went public on his dilemma in his latest walesonline.co.uk column and he hopes to soon have an answer for Erasmus one way or another.
He began his column by saying: “Two weeks ago, I received a text message from somebody I know in South Africa, asking me if the rumours were true. To be honest, as I told them, I had no idea what they were talking about.
“A few hours later, I saw online what I expect most of you will have seen by now all over social media and in the press. It was reported, first in South Africa and then in the UK and across the world, that the Springboks want me to join their coaching team ahead of this year’s World Cup.
“While receiving that text message was the first I’d heard of these rumours, I soon learned that they were true, as South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus phoned me a few days later and indeed asked me if I’d be interested in returning to the Test arena and joining up with them as a law and strategy consultant.
“The role itself, as Rassie explained, would be nothing new for me. It would entail me being in South Africa with the squad, refereeing their contact sessions and helping them with their understanding of what they can and can’t do on the field.
“I’d be giving feedback to World Rugby on behalf of South Africa, reviewing the game from a referee’s point of view, flagging incidents the team may have a couple of questions about, or areas where we feel like they have been treated harshly.
“And after what we have seen in South African rugby over the past 18 months or so, an important part of the role would be helping Rassie and co to turn over a new leaf and improve the relationship between coaches, players and the referee.”
Owens went on to explain he had done this type of role previously and added how torn he felt about an offer of work outside Wales at a time in his life when he feels well settled after his matchday retirement.
“I have known Rassie for a long time, I was refereeing when he was over here at Munster. So, I had a good, positive chat with him and he told me what the Springboks expect from their side of things. At the end of our conversation, I told him I’d have to think about it. So, what am I thinking? Well, it’s not a case of do I want to do it, but, more, is it practically possible for me to do it?”
“It goes without saying that to be part of the coaching set-up of a big proud rugby nation like South Africa, let alone while they’re reigning world champions, is something that I would be honoured to do. Rassie knows that.
“But while it’s certainly something that I’d consider doing and would probably enjoy doing, there are things that I need to sit down and go through from my side with my partner, family and the Welsh Rugby Union, where I’ve been a full-time employee for more than 22 years now. The job entails a lot of time away, so I’ve got to factor in the personal, family side of things and being away from the farm.
“Then, of course, as mentioned, I’m also employed by the WRU as a referee coach, coaching the likes of Craig Evans and Ben Breakspear, while I also head up the academy and I’m involved with the URC as well. The WRU is my priority, so I’ve got to think, how that would work if the next step was to happen? Right now, I don’t know.”
Owens concluded his Erasmus column: “I told Rassie that I needed a week or so to think things through and that is where we have left it for now. I will go back to them when I have thought it over and then either negotiations will carry on from there or I will have to say I’m sorry and prioritise my other commitments. There is a lot for me to consider, but all I know for sure right now is that it won’t be an easy decision either way.”
Additional source: @RugbyPass