Thursday morning, so it’s time for a sneak peak at Tank’s Sport24 column …
You can’t tell Allister Coetzee not to play Jean de Villiers against the Cheetahs this weekend and then force Coetzee and Western Province to fight for their Currie Cup survival in a promotion/ relegation match against the winner of the 1st Division should they lose to the Cheetahs without their skipper.
Well, not while Western Province are paying De Villiers his primary monthly wage. Even if it means the player breaks down and the Boks are forced to head on their November tour to the UK without their centre and captain …
Lots of talk in the media this week about the SA “System” being against the Boks, and rightly so. I have long campaigned for the implementation of central contracting where SARU contract the players using the TV money they make from the SANZAR tournaments and Currie Cup, and then manage the players to the benefit of the national side.
As it stands, the provinces pay the players’ salaries (they get performance based match fees from the Boks, but their guaranteed monthly salary comes via a provincial contract) and rightly want their pound of flesh from their highly paid resources. If you were CEO of your own company, how would you feel if told that you had to release your top three employees, including your MD, to the government for a month long national project, while getting no compensation?
As many have already said, central contracting is a no brainer if we want the Springboks to become the sole focus of all rugby energy in the country … But it’s not that simple to implement in South Africa. With the provinces (all 14 of them) wagging the tail that is SARU when it comes to making the big decisions at Council level, and thus voting for what works best for them, rather than the national good, the whole set up in SA is seemingly against creating the optimum environment for the players.
So given that central contracting would see SARU keeping the majority of the money in order to contract the players, and thus see the unions getting a much smaller handout, in order to get there, we would need to either get these turkeys to vote for Christmas, or change to a more modern system that would enable SARU to make business and strategic decisions without having to get the OK from Exco or The General Council, or whatever the gravy train calls itself these days. And that would take a change to the constitution. Vital, but I don’t see that happening too soon.
Should we ever get to central contracting, though, it would be a step in the right direction, but not the full solution …
Heyneke Meyer said after the Soweto Test that central contracting is the reason why the All Black’s have been able to manage players better, while at the same time bemoaning his side’s lack of experience. But it was Graham Henry who implemented the strategy of using virtually two different sides in the build up to the World Cup, thus creating a large squad of players with international experience, while also allowing him to manage the player’s actual game time. Sure, central contracting aided Henry in achieving this, but it was a gutsy call that built him a large squad from which to select. Meyer needs to mix and match a little more, and build that experience.
The other vital change that needs to happen is some form of continuity in the coaching department. Meyer came in badly undercooked having not been part of the Bok coaching staff under Peter de Villiers (who, in turn, was not part of Jake White’s team), and brought in a whole new team of assistants. That causes serious upheaval for the players. This while Steve Hansen served his time as an assistant All Black coach to Henry from 2004, before taking the top job this year. Continuity in the coaches box means coaches can plan for the future knowing that said plans will be fulfilled.
So bring on central contracting, but let’s also get a little smarter in terms of growing the base of players with international experience, and perhaps most importantly, let’s try and get some continuity in the coaching system, even if that means SARU getting involved in appointing assistants.