It’s time to adapt

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 14 Jul 2009 at 11:14
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There is not such a thing as good and bad coaches, it is simply a case of coaching who have gained the ability to manage situations better than others.

There has been some concerns raised over John Plumtree’s coaching abilities in recent months where the Sharks Super 14 team disappointed in what was largely viewed as a golden opportunity for them to win the Super 14 trophy, and this was amplified when the defending Currie Cup champs went down to Western Province in the opening round of the competition.

A lot has also been said about Peter de Villiers in recent months and perhaps unbeknown to his detractors in the media, who clearly had different intentions when they highlighted this fact, they basically hit the nail on the head when it comes to the difference between a good coach, and potentially great coach.

We, unlike Gavin Rich, are not close to the Bok or Sharks team – we have real jobs after all… So a lot of what is said and discussed on blogs such as this, is done at face value where our common passion for the game, as well as some of our limited involvement in different areas of the game are the resources we rely on to raise opinions like this.

Back to the topic however.

We have read to death the claims coming from the media on how the Boks only win with Jake White’s team, but loses because De Villiers is a useless coach.

This is amplified or motivated by other claims such as the senior Boks in the side being the real coaches of the side and that De Villiers is merely satisfying political agendas.

Rather than supporting their theory of the useless coach however, the last statement actually indicates that De Villiers is actually subscribing to a coaching philosophy and approach a lot of successful coaches has in the past and present – empowering players.

Another website I write for had the great opportunity to interview Robbie Deans a few years back when he was still in charge of the Crusaders. Deans made the simple but very powerful statement when asked about his success with the Crusaders that if he had to describe himself or his role, it would be that he is merely a facilitator.

This goes in line with a study Scott Cresswell and Robert Eklund did for the Department of Human Movement and Sciences for the University of Western Australia. They concentrated on player welfare and coaching strategies and studied how and why some coaches get it right, and some get it wrong and much of it came down to the application of empowerment of individuals in a group sport like rugby and how coaches uses strategies to implement this.

Two of the main points that they raised was that coaches had to adapt their coaching strategies to the players you are coaching, and also the environment you operate in, and also to have open, effective and honest communication with your players.

What you as a coach look for is a positive impact or result from your team and eliminate any negative impacts or results.

Interestingly enough, even when you have to communicate perceived negative news or information to players, it could, or should, have a positive impact on those players.

As an example try to imagine you have to explain to a player his non-selection to a team or match day 22. Usually we would associate this with a negative impact this will have on the player, but in essence if you communicate exactly why he was not selected, which areas in his game needs attention and where he currently is compared to the incumbent the spin off from non-selection can be extremely positive.

If you cast your mind back to an article Rob wrote after the Sharks recent loss, you will pick up Rob said some player he spoke to was disillusioned and it was never communicated to them where they stand with the union, and what they need to do to improve, in other words, detailed and honest feedback.

Players interviewed in this research said that positive and detailed feedback, even if ‘negative’ had a much better effect on them as both athletes and being part of a team.

Of course it is a very fine line a coach has to walk and he has to develop the ability to read players and situations, for a better word, man-management.

For example, a coach can try and empower players by simply giving them responsibility, without effectively communicating with the player to try and establish whether the player is firstly comfortable with the responsibility, and secondly skilled enough to do whatever is expected of him. From there, you are actually disempowering the player because a situation is forced down on him without giving him the choice to accept or decline the responsibility. This can have negative outcomes not only for the player who will feel overloaded and de-motivated because of perceptions of reduced accomplishment (he failed in his task), but to the team and essentially to coach too, who is the one being fired all the time.

To effectively empower players you have to give them a choice to accept the task at hand or decline it, in other words, you need buy-in from your players.

Coaches accomplish this, and in my mind where Plumtree might be struggling at the moment, by addressing the problems in the squad or team, and not the player.

Too often coaches address players, and not the problems. This creates a negative perception amongst players who often resort to claims of unfairness or favouritism when they leave teams or unions.

Now compare recent comments regarding Plumtree to statements by Regan Hoskins, John Smit, Victor Matfield and Frans Steyn who said that;

• This team is happier now than in 2007
• Coach communicates with them effectively and they know exactly where they stand
• Coach has a brilliant working relationship with both players and management
• Coach through his actions creates a happy environment for the team or operate in
• Coach allows player input from players
• Players sees no problem and is happy in sharing of responsibilities in the team which not only takes pressures of management, but also empowers them as players
• In many ways De Villiers is better than any coach they worked under before

Perhaps this will give you a clearer indication not only on our National Coach, and what he is perhaps getting right, and Sharks coach John Plumtree and what he is getting wrong.

I think the message I am trying to deliver here, is that perhaps coaches today need to adapt to their environment and players, than players always having to adapt to a coach, and his style and philosophy.


  • Very good article Morne..and I suspect by the recent statements by Plum that he is getting it horribly wrong at the moment.

  • Comment 1, posted at 14.07.09 11:43:42 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Morne is coaching not just another word for managing and I have to disagree with you there are bad coaches Streuli was a bad coach, he took a good team and f*ked it up with his inability to face the pressure he was put under, that makes him a bad coach. Carel Dup was another, who knew what he wanted, but had no idea how to convey it to the players which made him a bad coach/manager call it what you like. Nick Mallet was a good coach and a bad coach, because his initial management coaching style was great, but he became obsessed with Bobby Skinstad, under the influence of Alan Solomon and forgot about his openness and understanding with the rest of the team and this created a mood of distrust which led to his downfall. I agree coaches have to be able to define moments and decisions, but is that not the difference between a good and a bad coach?

  • Comment 2, posted at 14.07.09 11:51:31 by Whindy Reply
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  • stefan is captain this weekend,with albert on with sykes, nikolai and rhodes as cover

  • Comment 3, posted at 14.07.09 11:53:27 by willa Reply

  • @willa (Comment 3) :


  • Comment 4, posted at 14.07.09 11:55:27 by Prof. Ice Reply
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  • @Whindy (Comment 2) :

    Streauli also took the Sharks to Super rugby semi’s.

    Carel’s team smashed Aus in his last test and was largely the same group that achieved massive success under Mallet.

    For most ‘bad’ things you can highlight about coaches we can highlight good things too.

    I think when trying to see when a coach is good or bad I believe that not all people with an amazing knowledge of the game is always a good coach, similarly, you do not have to ‘be a student of the game’ to be a good coach.

    The most important aspect of any good coach is communication. You might have the best game plan or ideas, if you cannot communicate that you will fail. But does that make you a bad coach or a bad communicator?

    Hence, there are no bad coaches, there are however, brilliant coaches and the line or difference between them in my mind, has little to do with rugby…

  • Comment 5, posted at 14.07.09 11:57:58 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 5) :

    Jis but you right LONG articles…keep it to summaries for lazy readers like me!! 😉

  • Comment 6, posted at 14.07.09 11:59:57 by Prof. Ice Reply
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  • I’ve always wanted to say that the fact that people are confused about who is coaching the Boks is perhaps the greatest compliment one could give to a coach.

    In fact, anyone who has ever captained or coached any team will tell you that there’s not much of a difference between the two positions. It’s just that the other operates outside the lines – while the other is closer to the action during the match.

  • Comment 7, posted at 14.07.09 12:05:16 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @Morné (Comment 5) : I think we also need to distinguish between a head coach and then the specific “skill” or “domain expert” coaches, who are far more hands on in terms of getting the players to do specific things.

  • Comment 8, posted at 14.07.09 12:18:32 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 5) : I will agree to disagree with you. Sure Streuli did take the sharks to a semi and he was good at that level, but still IMO, not great a great coach would have won the Super 12 and I suppose that comes back to your no bad coach thing, Carel did not have Mallets management or motivational abilities, nobody knew what he wanted them to do, yes they hammered the Aussies but was that due to him or him going, debatable, no more pressure!! I believe that coaching is all about man management at that level, if you are still having to coach a player at that level, he should not be in the team, but a good coach is able to get the players to buy into his plan and then motivate them, how he does this, is a different matter and one that destines him to greatness or a has been status, which to me are the same as good or bad coaches!! 🙂

  • Comment 9, posted at 14.07.09 12:20:06 by Whindy Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 8) :

  • Comment 10, posted at 14.07.09 12:38:08 by blackshark Reply

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  • @blackshark (Comment 10) : askies? 🙂

  • Comment 11, posted at 14.07.09 12:42:29 by robdylan Reply
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  • @blackshark (Comment 10) :

    Don’t know what happened there 😳

    @robdylan (Comment 8) :
    I get seriously pissed when I see players repeating mistakes that can be easily corrected.

    @Whindy (Comment 9) :

    Yep – the players need to be motivated and confident enough to express themselves – but still be able to operate within the team structure.

  • Comment 12, posted at 14.07.09 12:47:31 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • @blackshark (Comment 12) : oh yeah… know that feeling

  • Comment 13, posted at 14.07.09 12:50:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Whindy (Comment 2) :

    Who did Stroolie replace as Bok coach?? Mallet or was it Viljoen??

  • Comment 14, posted at 14.07.09 12:56:04 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 14) :


  • Comment 15, posted at 14.07.09 13:03:53 by Morné Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 14) :
    Andre Markgraaff
    Carel du Plessis
    Nick Mallett
    Harry Viljoen
    Rudolph Straeuli
    Jake White
    Peter de Villiers

  • Comment 16, posted at 14.07.09 13:07:21 by blackshark Reply

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  • @blackshark (Comment 16) : like a frikking horror story

  • Comment 17, posted at 14.07.09 13:18:53 by robdylan Reply
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  • Carel had a flippin decent looking squad with the exception of Edrich Lubbe, Danie Van Schalkwyk and Russell Bennett 🙄

  • Comment 18, posted at 14.07.09 13:40:01 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 18) : Bennet scored an awesome try against the All Blacks, though.

  • Comment 19, posted at 14.07.09 13:42:17 by robdylan Reply
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  • Happy teams dont usually have discipline problems.

  • Comment 20, posted at 14.07.09 15:16:24 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • Big issue I have with Sa Rugby is that they don’t distinguish between coaches and managers.

    Coaches are there to teach the players skills, vision, rounding etc.
    Managers are there to design a gameplan, select the side and get the gameplan implemented.

    For some or other reason rugby, in SA specifically, seems to think this is the same job needing the same skills.
    Well that’s the way they select their coaching staff anyway.

  • Comment 21, posted at 14.07.09 15:18:17 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 20) : wow, the Bulls under Heyneke Meyer must have been an unhappy lot, then… and yet, that’s not what you hear….

  • Comment 22, posted at 14.07.09 15:18:57 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 22) :

    Adv. 1. usually – under normal conditions; “usually she was late”
    commonly, normally, ordinarily, unremarkably

  • Comment 23, posted at 14.07.09 15:20:41 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 20) :

    You haven’t heard?

    Schalk was not found guilty of gouging and the whole rugby world, including the ref boss at the IRB said the Bakkies decision was absurd.

    We don’t have discipline problems, idiot Canadian citing commissioners have.

  • Comment 24, posted at 14.07.09 15:22:41 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 24) :

    No handbags in the last tour then?
    No armbands? No moaning? No fists thrown? I mean, really, the reports from the tour is the Lions commenting on how clean this tour was… but then maybe that’s just because I’ve been reading the British press… 🙄

  • Comment 25, posted at 14.07.09 15:25:06 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 25) :

    You play rugby or played, there is always handbags.

    And again, the armbands was supported by management at the time, and now SARU also stands behind the Boks and John.

    Tell me, how much of these fisty cuffs did the Pommie Press accuse their own players of?

  • Comment 26, posted at 14.07.09 15:29:55 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 26) :

    Yes, you are right Morne.
    The Boks are one of the cleaner teams in world rugby at the moment.

    All bow before the might of the (clean) Bok.

    If you support the armbands then we really have nothing left to debate.

  • Comment 27, posted at 14.07.09 15:33:36 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 27) :

    And you don’t why?

    Normal channels should be followed, the ones that fall on deaf ears?

    Tell me, if something happens because of this (changes in the citing process and applications of laws) would you think it was a good thing?

    BTW, I do and did not support it, as players you have enough to worry about in a test than to occupy your mind with things you have no control over.

    Oh and since you are here, what did you think of Jacques Kallis in the recent T20 World Cup?

  • Comment 28, posted at 14.07.09 15:39:03 by Morné Reply
  • And as fun as this was, I am leaving in about 10 minutes, so let me state my opinion on this now.

    I believe the idea or thought that we have discipline issues in the Bok team is hogwash.

    Schalk was not found guilty of the reported offense, and he and the team happily accepted the charge laid in front of him that he did overstep the line but was not guilty of intentional dirty play.

    The Bakkies incident was a load of kak, plain and simple.

    The armbands is something I do not agree with because it is a bit pointless occupying your mind with things you have no direct control over to influence an outcome that has already taken place, Bakkies was banned and nothing would change that.

    However, you have a team that stood united, a coach that stood by his player(s) and subsequently players not found guilty of any dirty play.

    The fact that we on the outside have a problem with their armband statement does not make them indisciplined, they stood united and believed in their stance and whatever they believed in, whether we agree with it or not – that is anything but a camp or team that is not disciplined.

    It shows me more than ever, that we have a happy and united team.

  • Comment 29, posted at 14.07.09 15:48:58 by Morné Reply
  • Jacques Kallis = unfit and fat cricketer who never performs when really needed!!! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 30, posted at 14.07.09 15:55:10 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 30) : and he plays for wp

  • Comment 31, posted at 14.07.09 15:57:08 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 31) : sorry The Cobras

  • Comment 32, posted at 14.07.09 15:58:57 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 31) :

    Nope. We only got him into the Proteas set up!!! 😈

    You see that’s what we do. We get guys like Gibbs, Smith, Prince, Duminy into the side.

    Kallis, Boucher and Prince moved to the Eastern Cape Warriors!! 🙄

  • Comment 33, posted at 14.07.09 15:59:43 by wpw Reply
  • Did Boucher ever play a game for the Cobras?

  • Comment 34, posted at 14.07.09 16:11:52 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Not even one… 😯

  • Comment 35, posted at 14.07.09 20:36:34 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 35) :
    😯 I wasnt really expecting that answer. I hope he did the honourable thing and returned any salary they paid him.

  • Comment 36, posted at 15.07.09 08:45:08 by Salmonoid Reply
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