Yesterday’s somewhat unprecedented Sunday press conference, in which SARU finally revealed its worst-ever-kept secret by confirming Rassie Erasmus as Bok High Performance Manager, couldn’t have happened in a more fitting location than Pretoria; in fact, those who have grown used to the 100-year-legacy of a Cape Town power base running South African rugby should probably prepare themselves to shift further North for the foreseeable future, even if just mentally.
The good news for Bok fans is that Heyneke Meyer’s management team is finally taking shape. With the head coach himself having been prised away from his Jacaranda-lined office a good few months back, it seems we’ve waited an inordinately long time to learn exactly who his back room staff would comprise, with no shortage of wild rumours flying around to fill the intervening time. SARU, it seems, have appointed Erasmus as both mentor and foil to Meyer; the former won’t, I’m sure, play a particularly hands-on role (although he will be “seconded to the Springbok team when they are in camp”) but will presumably concentrate on harmonising structures across all teams, as well as, we hope, raising an eyebrow or two when (not if) the non-Bull quota in the Bok team falls below 25%.
A compromise, it seems, has been reached with Loftus as well, with Meyer to have his pick of the Bulls coaching team, even though they will all be allowed to remain in their current posts until the end of the current season. Johann van Graan, the architect behind so much of the Pretoria forward dominance over the last decade, will continue to act as Meyer’s right-hand man in a green blazer, with former Sharks fullback Ricardo Loubscher looking after the backs. There are more Bulls in defence guru John McFarland and conditioning coach Basil Carzis, so any hope that Meyer’s “cabinet” might comprise a blend of skills and approaches from across the country appears to have been properly dashed; this Bok team will play the Bulls way and if you’re going to select a side to play the Bulls way, you’ll probably want to start with Bulls players. This much is already evident, with strong suggestions that Meyer intends to lure Victor Matfield out of retirement to captain the side against England.
A number of other key men are being lined up to lend a hand, with Ian Schwartz, the Bulls High-Performance Manager, among them. Losing his skills in addition to the slew of coaches they;ll be giving up, will be a bitter blow indeed to the Pretoria franchise; so much of the amazing structures and quiet professionalism that have grown to typify the Bulls approach are as a result of Schwartz’s work and he will prove, I’m sure, indefinitely, infinitely harder to replace than any of the coaches they’re giving up. Louis Koen, Pieter de Villiers and Neil du Plessis will apparently also be roped in as consultants although it’s hard to see how the latter will work with Carzis, since they’re both conditioning specialists.
The good news for the Sharks is that our very own “Doc”, Craig Roberts, has been reappointed to the management team. Slim pickings, I know, but in the hard times to follow, it’s good to know that Craig will continue to represent the forgotten lands to the East of the blue citadel.Tweet