A shoulder for Meyer to lean on

Nick Mallett reckons a weekly call from a former Bok coach might have changed his call to drop Techmann. Tank Lanning, in his weekly Sport24 column, believes Mallett is the perfect guy for Heyneke Meyer to lean on.

Being the Bok coach can be terribly lonely. Sure millions of people want a piece of you, and millions more have advice for you, but it can get lonely in the sense that you are not really sure who you should be listening to, yet the (very public) buck stops only with you!

“It’s the toughest job in the world” was one of the ways former Bok mentor Nick Mallett described the job to me as we whiled away the hour or so before our tee time in the annual Sunshine Tour Media Challenge on Monday. The others are not suitable for family reading!

The public have their view, and these days there are a multitude of ways for them to make that view known. The media have their view, and are a very persuasive medium, especially in certain communities. The politicians will have an opinion and not be shy to make it known, often via the media rather than directly. SARU have certain goals that need to be met. And the coach’s own management team will have their view, which would ordinarily be his shoulder to lean on. But even that opinion comes with some risk. Are they just being Yes-Men looking to keep their jobs, do they have provincial agendas, or are they already looking to get a job with an imminent new regime?

And no matter how vehemently they deny it, every single coach not only watches TV, but also reads most of the papers, websites, blogs and even Twitter! The pressure builds, and doubts re who you should be listening to creep in. They tend alienate themselves, and the crazy loneliness rears its ugly head.

“If only an oke like Mac (former Bok coach and current selector Ian McIntosh) had given me a call every week … I might not have dropped Gary Teichmann when I did” said Mallett when discussing the business of who you trust when making these big calls. Now happy to admit that it was an error, at the time he had it in his mind that Bob Skinstad was the man to lead the Boks at the World Cup. And we all know how that turned out.

And what sparked this little tete-a-tete? Well, the man who’s opinion I respect more than anyone else in the game, came up to me and said he enjoyed my column on the media having influenced Heyneke Meyer’s reign as the Bok coach!

Smelling salts for those that have fallen off their chairs please Mr Editor. Most comments last week called me hugely arrogant for even thinking that us scribes might have had any influence at all on our national treasure (Yep, columnists who say they don’t read the comments are also lying).

Reading it again, I can see where those folk are coming from. But what if I had said that public opinion, expressed via the media, had influenced Meyer? Or what if I had used Mallett’s name? The latter, via his post-match analysis on SuperSport, is hugely influential on how the game is played in South Africa. Thankfully, given how much sense he speaks.

Perhaps then, the column would have come across as less arrogant? I hope so, as that was certainly not my intention. Or perhaps I am just a fat arrogant bastard?

Having a man of Mallett’s calibre, along with a few others in the social media space, agree with me, does give me a little solace though, as I still firmly stand by what I said.

And in closing, I must stress that I see this as a huge credit to Meyer. That he has been big enough to take heed of any criticism in the public domain, and use it as part of his coaching mix shows a lack of arrogance that some coaches are prone to.


  1. Tank, I usually read your comments on sport 24 but when you started your “Front Row Grunt” column (without it being on the sport 24 site at the time) I made the odd comment on your articles.
    I am not on Facebook and therefore can’t comment on sport 24. Maybe it is a good thing because some of those comments were just way over the top and some were quite insulting. It seems that many people make very stupid comments when somebody (in this case you) expresses a view that is different form theirs.

    I don’t always agree with your comments (I mostly do) but when I feel differently I’ll still respect your opinion.

    Keep up the good work ! I thoroughly enjoy your comments….perhaps it is my way of supporting a former member of the front row (the only row lol )

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