Coaching conundrum

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 10 Sep 2010 at 11:10
Tagged with : ,

Why is it that you can make a career out of rugby if you are good enough except in the field of coaching?

It is a question I have been struggling with for about a week now after a New Zealand rugby fan asked me firstly if I think we have world class coaches to which I replied that I can arguably count them on one hand. His follow-up question was predictable but no-less important; “Why?”

Indeed ‘why’?

With a country so rich in rugby resources and tradition why is it that we cannot turn out world class coaches, or leaders in the coaching environment at will?

It really comes down to a combination of things, but two things for me stand out – one is more of a global problem but the second I believe is one we can easily address.

It seems that in professional sport there is a trend globally that past players usually end up as coaches once they hang up their boots. This in itself on the surface is not a bad thing necessarily, some guys become great coaches and their experience of playing at international level in many ways prepares them for the pressures of coaching there.

But then you also have the old thing that not all players become good coaches (there are many examples of this) and you also run the risk of falling into the trap of not being innovative enough or changing as the game changes – a case of doing what worked when you played when the rest of the world has moved on.

Innovation is a big thing in coaching and that is arguably the biggest challenge for ex-player coaches. The Springboks have just recently been accused of showing no innovation and being overtaken by teams they dominated last year. You obviously also run the risk of not modernizing yourself as a coach by including necessary elements or expertise in modern sport such as specialised conditioning/fitness experts, bio-mechanics experts and of course the psychological or mental experts to name a few as you did not ‘need them when you were a player’.

Coaches often limit themselves more than structures or the environment they operate in do, and this is the most obvious failing from ex-player coaches.

Some even believe that guys who have/had a massive passion and love for the game at a young or junior/amateur level, but knew and understood their limitations as players and always had to innovate themselves to keep up with the more talented guys are the ones who will apply the same type of innovation as coaches…

The second problem is one that can be managed however.

Rugby is a professional sport, meaning that you can make a career out of the game like many do at the moment. Aspects or certain areas of the game compliment or help you to achieve this through the structures in place like player and referee structures, but some progression structures specifically in coaching is non-existent.

If a rugby player is good enough to make it to the highest level, or even a level where he can make a decent living out of the game, there is a set structure to support him.

From schoolboy level you have systems like Craven Week in place, this progress to club level where local and national competitions allow you to progress through the ranks. Naturally and if you are good enough, you end up in union structures with stepping stone platforms like the Vodacom Cup through to Currie Cup, Super 14 and eventually Springbok rugby.

Throughout this process the demands get more on the individual, but they also improve and learn additional skills and with experience become better players. The best make it to the top but some might just hit the ceiling at Currie Cup level but even then, a system backed them up and helped them make a career out of the game of union.

No such thing exists for coaching or individuals interested in becoming coaches.

In recent years academies have sprung up in South Africa and although a few are closely linked to unions, even they do not provide you with a platform to progress as a coach.

In fact, those who end up in coaching, like what happened to me in the past, became involved completely by chance and being in the right place at the right time.

Of course no system will guarantee vast numbers of successful coaches being delivered but modern day coaching is more than just carrying a whistle on a training pitch directing players. Like any career there are areas of specialization that opens up for individuals or which suits their specific strengths, like psychology, mechanics, analysis and planning, skills, fitness, defense, attack, kicking, contact, running and many other specific areas of specialization in which they can move into which all forms part of the environment or challenges of coaching.

Like all players are not destined to become Springboks, not all coaches will be destined to become head or senior coaches but at least through a proper system or structure, we can ensure that we produce specialists or coaches who are innovators and leaders.

Currently two of our top 5 unions in South Africa are coached by foreign coaches and all of them are coached by ex-players, some hanging up their playing boots as recently as 2005!

This is not to question their quality as coaches, but it is a clear indication to the pattern which is followed and perhaps answers the Kiwi-rugby supporter’s question as to why we struggle in South Africa to produce quality coaches in which I would have to use at least both hands to do a roll call!


  • I’ll read your article now…just firts wanna get this of my chest:


    Okay – off to read it now..

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.09.10 11:16:07 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 1) :

    Design me a new one then! 😉

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.09.10 11:22:35 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 2) : Just take the old one back…..we’ll ask letgo to close her eyes when she sees your name anywhere 😀

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.09.10 11:28:25 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Lack of imagination..?drilling set plays into players..? Watched rwc07 final and there was a chance to attack frm within own 22,striking left (habana was then still in-form),but butch turns inside,kicks for touch on halfway..the abs wouldve run that ball and most probably scored a great try or got pen inside opp 22..diff philosophy to the game..i liken abs to brazil of rugby,except they dnt excell at wc ..hehehehe!

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.09.10 11:29:32 by bergshark Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) :

    Haha, I am afraid ass of the week is something of the past!!!

    @bergshark (Comment 4) :

    Ex-player coaches and the cycles (coaching how they have been coached) i.e. philisophies repeating itself perhaps?

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.09.10 11:31:32 by Morné Reply
  • Yet another good read Morne.. You seem to churn these babies out at will now..

    I wanted to go into Sport Management when I finished school, but my chances of really getting into would be limited as a result of every second ex player becoming a coach..

    That is why people do not get into it, in my opinion.

  • Comment 6, posted at 10.09.10 11:32:24 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • No such thing exists for coaching or individuals interested in becoming coaches.

    I agree 100% and have a theory as to why.

    At the playing level there is a personal interest for unions to develop players thus ensuring that the union is competitive and makes money.

    For some reason the unions don’t really apply the same logic to coaches. There are a few coaching courses a year in KZN. They did also send Muir to NZ to visit and learn I believe. But other than that, there isn’t much to improve the coaches IMO.

  • Comment 7, posted at 10.09.10 11:32:34 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Maybe I must take up reffing or coaching! 😛

  • Comment 8, posted at 10.09.10 11:36:48 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 8) :

    A requirement for reffing is that you can see OVER a ruck. 😉

  • Comment 9, posted at 10.09.10 11:40:36 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) :

    Serious??? 😯

    I’ll just run with my little step ladder – do it at home anyway! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 10, posted at 10.09.10 11:42:42 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 9) :

    Why? so they can look UNDER the rok? :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 11, posted at 10.09.10 11:43:45 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Oh – Nice article Morras!

  • Comment 12, posted at 10.09.10 11:44:18 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 10) :

    No it’s not a requirement.

    @Ice (Comment 11) : Rok? Jy moet ‘n broek dra.

  • Comment 13, posted at 10.09.10 11:47:20 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 13) :

    Ruck / rok…it just begged me to make that silly comment! 😆

    Well, I thought not – I dont reckon me and little Jafta is different in our height – and same as him – I dont take no nonsense from no man! Guess now I just need to learn the laws.. 😆 (Ek kan ‘n fluitjie blaas) so almost all boxes ticked!! yayy!! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 14, posted at 10.09.10 11:53:24 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Morne(comment 5): guess so ..another thing that irks me is some of these ex-players given their so-called expert opinions on rugby shows,match commentary(ie,some are good ,though,and def add value)..remember the outcry at ian mac being becoming bok coach in some circles because he wasnt an ex-bok?!thank goodness we’ve moved on frm that type of thnking..ian mac was a student of the game

  • Comment 15, posted at 10.09.10 11:57:00 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 15) :

    Like Daniel-son in Karate kid! 😉

  • Comment 16, posted at 10.09.10 11:59:10 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @bergshark (Comment 15) :

    I thought it was because Ian Mac wasn’t a Saffa.

    And that is why we will never have another (non Saffa) IMO.

  • Comment 17, posted at 10.09.10 12:04:16 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @bergshark (Comment 15) :

    Opps sorry I don’t believe we HAVE moved on from that thinking.

  • Comment 18, posted at 10.09.10 12:04:54 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @bergshark (Comment 15) : thats how i feel when i see Nasser Hussain commentating on cricket and hitting out at cricket players and captains that made the wrong choice on the field… Like Nasser was a legend?? 😈 worst english captain in their history IMO.

    i takes a good player with vision, leadership and calmness to be a captain… good captains should become good coaches. Gary teichman would have been a great coach IMO.

  • Comment 19, posted at 10.09.10 12:09:50 by VanWilder Reply

  • @Morne:hugh reece edwards lol gets appointed as sharks backs coach,then reckons he must do some extra work,reading because the game has moved on since the last time he coached!? He was coachng some highschool team,poor players having a coach who doesnt try and give his players the best and latest coaching ..

  • Comment 20, posted at 10.09.10 12:13:32 by bergshark Reply

  • @KSA SHARK: there were quite a few objections to him becoming bok coach,frm him being english,to ex-rhodie,but there was this unwritten rule it seems that only ex-boks cn become bok coach.must go read up in my sharksmags,but im sure that was the reason someone like izak v heerden was never considered as bok coach(or,would be considered by the powers that be in his time)

  • Comment 21, posted at 10.09.10 12:26:47 by bergshark Reply

  • there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes with francois pienaar and some transvaal players wanting kitch to coach the team..yet,if tiaan strauss let that ball go wide in the first test we might have won that game..and if japie mulder passed the ball in the drawn 3rd test,we might have won the series!! 😯

  • Comment 22, posted at 10.09.10 12:34:12 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 22) : 1994 bok tour to nz

  • Comment 23, posted at 10.09.10 12:34:45 by bergshark Reply

  • @VanWilder (Comment 19) : good you think the sharks should perhaps try and get stefan and john smit involved in the coaching structures at the tank?

  • Comment 24, posted at 10.09.10 12:43:23 by bergshark Reply

  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 6) :

    I have a lot of kak to share and you WILL be the unfortunate recipients of it!!! 😉

  • Comment 25, posted at 10.09.10 12:43:23 by Morné Reply
  • @bergshark (Comment 21) :

    Thats probably why Carel du Plessis became Bok coach!!

    What a disaster. His career consisted of coaching jobs at lowly UWC in CT. 😯

    I dont even know in which Division UWC plays (Charlie will know)

    Heyneke Meyer proved you don’t need to be a successful former player to be a decent coach!!

  • Comment 26, posted at 10.09.10 12:49:22 by wpw Reply
  • @bergshark (Comment 24) : i think it would be risky to appoint a just-retired player as a coach. maybe as a adviser or a technical coach, but as head coach you will sit with the problem that the players know the coach well, more as a friend, and in hard time it would be difficult for such a coach to get authority. (as i feel the problem is with div – good friends with the players, now stuggles with authority).

    i would appoint an ex player/captain as a coach a few years after he has retired to answer your question. Appoint John or Stef to a junior team or a technical coaching post and gradually let him into a bigger enviroment. Just take a look at Martin Johnson (England), i dont think he`s doing a good job.

    you have to start from the bottom. you climb a tree from the bottom, the only thing you enter from the top is a grave… 😐

  • Comment 27, posted at 10.09.10 12:52:56 by VanWilder Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 26) : 😯

  • Comment 28, posted at 10.09.10 12:54:08 by bergshark Reply

  • @VanWilder (Comment 27) : makes sense..get them involved @academy,u19` with recruiting younsters at various schools` rugby weeks,perhaps

  • Comment 29, posted at 10.09.10 12:56:51 by bergshark Reply

  • I keep reading about Victor Matfield’s obsession in deconstructing the opposition’s lineouts. Staying up late at night to study their earlier games. I think players with that sort of focus and attention to detail could make excellent specialty coaches.

  • Comment 30, posted at 10.09.10 12:59:00 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @wpw (Comment 26) : perhaps heyneke should become director of rugby at sa rugby(do they have such a position?do we need such a position?)

  • Comment 31, posted at 10.09.10 13:00:52 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 31) :

    Do we ever!

  • Comment 32, posted at 10.09.10 13:02:03 by Morné Reply
  • @vanmartin (Comment 30) : rassie also used to have that same attention to detail..werner swanepoel once said how he and rassie would sit till late and analyze opposition.

  • Comment 33, posted at 10.09.10 13:05:16 by bergshark Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 32) : then lets phone him and tell him to start pulling some strings 😆

  • Comment 34, posted at 10.09.10 13:07:14 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 33) :

    Story about Rassie.

    He has a brilliant rugby brain, can analyse and break things down on a whiteboard better than most.

    But he has no skills in applying that practically apparently, which again highlights the different strengths and areas important in coaching.

  • Comment 35, posted at 10.09.10 13:07:24 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 32) : big problem is the varying standard of schools` rugby coaches..and club coaches also have an appaling standard!!!no wonder we have players that can`t pass both left and right..or sh that cant clear the ball to the backs..basics,basics,basics!!!!!

  • Comment 36, posted at 10.09.10 13:12:01 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 36) :

    I said it before, I think some of the best rugby brains are to be found in schools in SA…

    Just take the Grey coach, do you know that they have involved Sherylle Calder in their coaching setup since 2007?

    Problem is the big gap in coaching skills from primary to high school, and from high school to club rugby – if we can close those gaps we will produce much better quality players.


  • Comment 37, posted at 10.09.10 13:13:55 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 35) : what if we can get heyneke and rassie working together then,for sa rugby?heyneke being a former teacher

  • Comment 38, posted at 10.09.10 13:15:19 by bergshark Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 35) :

    He ALSO lacks the ability to realise it and appoint people around him to supplement his shortcomings.

    THAT is something that Jake White DID have the ability to do.

    NO this is not a call for JW to become Bok coach. 😉

  • Comment 39, posted at 10.09.10 13:16:29 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 39) :

    He is the most paranoid coach I ever came across…

  • Comment 40, posted at 10.09.10 13:18:39 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 40) :

    A close 2nd is Rudolph Streauli.

    Rassie DOES have the ability to appoint media protectors around him though. 😛

    The Erasmi Rule(s)

  • Comment 41, posted at 10.09.10 13:21:20 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Morné (Comment 37) : i`ve known some bad coaches at all those levels you`ve mentioned 😥

  • Comment 42, posted at 10.09.10 13:23:08 by bergshark Reply

  • Morne

    What is your opinion of Allister Coetzee??

  • Comment 43, posted at 10.09.10 13:24:07 by wpw Reply
  • @vanmartin (Comment 30) :

    Apparently he is a methmatical / riddle genious and works out the opposition teams’ lineout calls in no time at all…he’s mom was /is a math teacher too..

    It was also in the news that he wants to coach badly..

  • Comment 44, posted at 10.09.10 13:24:24 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @bergshark (Comment 42) :

    Some hondk*k coaches:

    Chester Williams
    Kobus VD Merwe
    Carel du Plessis
    Kevin Putt
    Rudi Joubert

    Wie is daar nog?? 🙄

  • Comment 45, posted at 10.09.10 13:26:17 by wpw Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 37) : that grey setup just sounds incredible..they`re a true rugby school..invest in the players,because they are proud of the reputation their school has..and they don`t want to give it up ,i guess

  • Comment 46, posted at 10.09.10 13:26:32 by bergshark Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 45) :

    Hugh Reece-Edwards

  • Comment 47, posted at 10.09.10 13:29:39 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @wpw (Comment 43) :

    I like him.

    I think he manages players brilliantly and handles the media well too.

    I think he is a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to coaching though and is scared to venture into the innovation stakes of the game.

    I will know more after my round of golf with him that is coming up a month or so with him 😉

  • Comment 48, posted at 10.09.10 13:32:05 by Morné Reply
  • @bergshark (Comment 46) :

    They are a cut above the rest.

  • Comment 49, posted at 10.09.10 13:32:37 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 48) :


  • Comment 50, posted at 10.09.10 13:35:34 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 45) :

    Chester and Putt was not avarage – they were k*k! 😳

  • Comment 51, posted at 10.09.10 13:37:09 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 51) :

    Well put.

  • Comment 52, posted at 10.09.10 13:38:04 by Morné Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 43) :

    @Morné (Comment 48) :

    Who here remembers me having a few coronaries when Coetzee was cleverly pushed into the limelight as the CC coach with Rassie a DOR at WP after a disasterous S14?

    Rassie is a coniving little “Harold Verster” The only right thing he has done is leave Coetzee as the head coach and keep himslef as the DOR.

  • Comment 53, posted at 10.09.10 13:38:31 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 53) :

    It was the best thing that could have happened with WP rugby.

  • Comment 54, posted at 10.09.10 13:39:35 by Morné Reply
  • @Morne: who is the director of rugby at grey?

  • Comment 55, posted at 10.09.10 13:41:35 by bergshark Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 53) :

    let me just clarify that. My gripe (coronaries) was (were) not with Coetzee being the coach but with the “Harold verster” being well positioned to avoid any fall out if the CC campaign sucked and well positioned to take the credit if the CC campaighn was a success.

  • Comment 56, posted at 10.09.10 13:44:04 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Ice (Comment 51) :

    There, I fixed my comment!! :mrgreen: 😉

  • Comment 57, posted at 10.09.10 13:45:56 by wpw Reply
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 56) :

    I remember!! 😕

  • Comment 58, posted at 10.09.10 13:49:55 by wpw Reply
  • @bergshark (Comment 55) :

    No idea who the DOR is, might be on their website.

  • Comment 59, posted at 10.09.10 13:51:27 by Morné Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 57) :

    :mrgreen: 😆

  • Comment 60, posted at 10.09.10 13:52:53 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • i really do rate the maties coach – cean roux. He`s been VERY succesful with maties and has got a very good understanding with the younger players aswell as a good knowledge of western cape schools and players.

  • Comment 61, posted at 10.09.10 14:04:03 by VanWilder Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 45) : before his stint at the bulls a no-brainer would have been Frans Ludeke.

    now, is it as much a coaching thing with ludeke or is it more a well “designed” coaching structure at the bulls?

  • Comment 62, posted at 10.09.10 14:06:54 by VanWilder Reply

  • @Morne: dries vd walt,head of rugby at grey

  • Comment 63, posted at 10.09.10 14:16:40 by bergshark Reply


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