Lose the World Cup obsession

Our obsession with World Cup results sees us not developing players, coaches or our game says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column this week, who suggests a fairly radical departure from the current model.

Tank Lanning

If the All Black coaches lost Dan Carter and Richie McCaw for the World Cup, two of the greatest rugby players to have graced this planet, they might feel bad for the 2 players, but would simply move on and select Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane. The Boks are looking at a World Cup sans Jean de Villiers and Fourie du Preez, and it’s an absolute calamity!

Why? Because there are no obvious replacements in line to step in and play the same game the Boks have been playing. Sure coach Heyneke Meyer may have in his head a hierarchy of players in each position, but when last did he trust number 2, let alone number 3, with a start, or even some meaningful game time in a Test?

He is a little undecided at hooker and flyhalf, in itself a bit of an issue, but in every other position he is want to play his first choice player not only in every game, but also for most of the game.

Why? Because of this sickening obsession with the bloody World Cup, and with getting results no matter the fashion in which they are achieved. The result being that we play only to win, and given that the World Cup can only realistically be won by 5 or 6 teams, with a view to getting those wins in 3 specific games that happen every 4 years!

Simplistically, that might seem fine and dandy, and pretty logical. But when we find ourselves incredibly short on coaches, lacking a coaching development path, being accused of playing a game that came on the ark, and not knowing how well our second best player in a position will perform at Test level, I think the current system has caused some proper issues.

We should be ashamed at not being able to get a Super Rugby side into the top 6 of the log. It’s bloody pathetic and speaks to our game being archaic and based on beating your opposite number through only physicality and not skill or guile. It starts at school, where most of our sides are coached to win on TV and sneak up the now very public rankings, no matter how it is achieved.

We need to break the shackles of the past that saw a physically stronger Springbok side, drawing on massive men used to physical work on the farms, dominate. Every team is now big, strong, powerful, and fast. In fact, I would say many players outside of SA are better conditioned than the ones in SA, especially for the modern game we seem so unkeen to play.

So how about we start at the top? Contract the Bok coach for 4 years starting 2 years prior to a World Cup and do not make performance at the tournament one his KPI’s. Instead ask him to do 3 things: 1 – Produce at least 2 players in each position that can play (and have played) at the top level. 2 – Develop at least one coach who will be able to take over from him should he not get a second stint. 3 – Work with Rassie Erasmus’ central coaching unit to implement a “Head’s up” game that asks the players to make decisions on the field based on an increased set of skills learnt at training.

So he would basically be incentivised to “Coach” himself out of a job, which would be fantastic for continuity, but not so good personally. So I would suggest SARU going one step further and guarantee him some sort of post coaching employment (should he want it) in a coaching development cycle that quite clearly needs to be implemented.

You think that might hurt our World Cup performance? I reckon the complete opposite!

One Comment

  1. Well spoken, I agree 100% on your bold piece. It takes a brave man to come up with these home truths and still live in SA. I now live in NZ but on my annual visits back home, if I mention any of the above, I get told to f..off back to NZ. Even my friends cannot take criticism from outside the laager – not even after I sat at Newlands with them through that terrible game the Stormers put forward against a ripe for picking Brumbies side.

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