Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Litmus

Time to learn from the Toetie era

Litmus test failed, Springbok rugby is up poo creek without a paddle says TANK LANNING in his All Out Rugby column, who suggests the Ceteris paribus principle as we implement change.

Tank Lanning

There is talk of this weekend’s Test against Wales being yet another “litmus test” for beleaguered Bok coach Allister Coetzee. Horse manure. Previous results of what is defined as a “decisively indicative test” show fatal signs of acidity together with industrial doses of bile!

In short: FAIL

Coetzee was, and remains, too desperate for the job. Hence his accepting the ridiculous terms, and the lack of Seppuku sword, even given his most dishonourable results.

I digress, though. Now that Coetzee is seemingly on his merry way, what have we learnt from this torturous time, and how do we apply those learnings going forward?

Springbok rugby is up poo creek without a paddle, of that there is no doubt. But in order to find out what is impacting on the Boks most, we need to implement another test. One that sees the Ceteris Paribus principle implemented – where other conditions remain the same or equal.

To my mind, the four key factors currently influencing Springbok performance are:

  • The coach (and his staff)
  • Transformation objectives for RWC 2019
  • The 30-cap rule, given the monumental player drain
  • The SA Rugby structures

Change more than one at the same time, though, and how will you know which of the changes influenced the result? Enter Ceteris Paribus.

As divisive as it is, I cannot see the transformation target of the Boks needing to be 50% white and 50% black by RWC 2019 changing. I also do not see government helping out at a grass roots level.

While the currency scrums down in the sewer, the player drain is here to stay.

A change to the SA Rugby structures requires a change to the constitution, and that requires the smaller unions to make like turkeys voting for Christmas. It ain’t going to happen any time soon.

So, seeing if a better man can do a better coaching job – given that the other three factors look likely to remain as is – does look a plausible option.

The return of Rassie Erasmus as the director of rugby does muddy the waters a little. Together with defence guru Jacques Neinaber, Erasmus is likely to fire up a version of his old “Mobi-Unit” in order to create not only a coach-friendly resource, but also a buffer between SA Rugby and the Bok coach.

In effect, it is a tweak to the SA Rugby structures, which would make a coaching change slightly unfair on Coetzee, who, in one way or another, has definitely been thrown under a bus.

Hence Ami Kapilevich calling for a 6-month reprieve for Coetzee. It’s not an option I would support, but given the above, it has its merits.

The other options?

Craig Ray has suggested a “chasing excellence” approach, calling for an established, truly world-class coach like Dave Rennie. The concept sits well with me, as the perfect opposite to what we have now. In effect, the perfect test. But would any such coach accept the conditions?

Erasmus in as the head coach, either together with his DOR responsibilities, or with those on pause or handed to someone else? It could work, perhaps as an interim solution, but my word does SA Rugby need a DOR, even if just to install a much needed coaching pipeline.

Instead, word on the street suggests that Erasmus will babysit Kings coach Deon Davids.

It is a model that has worked in the past – SA Rugby’s Mobi-Unit under Erasmus helped put the plans in place for Davids to execute in Super Rugby, and in trying circumstances, the Kings showed lots of promise. The man has potential as a coach – fact!

Is that what we want from our DOR, though? And do we want a national coach who has coached a Super Rugby side into extinction and lost every single Pro14 game he has ever coached? Do we want our national coach learning on the job? Would it be part of a transformation plan, or window-dressing of the highest order?

One test it would fail, is a Ceteris Paribus test. So what would we actually learn?

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

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