Custodians firing as cannons

Keo, in his News24 coulmn, writes that the Jake White fiasco of the past week has highlighted the lack of professional structures within South African rugby when it comes to the actual rugby.

Provincial presidents, with a part-time investment in rugby, will determine the future of the Springbok coach. Blokes, who are either retired, should be retired or have other day jobs, will sit in a plush boardroom for a day and determine the merits of the Bok coach.

They are the ones who will assess his performance of the last two and a half years and they will decide whether White’s strategy is good enough to take the Boks beyond the 2007 World Cup and into the 2009 season.

It is a scary thought. These are the same blokes who perform only a ceremonial role in their provincial organizations and the same blokes whose provincial organizations, for the most, face financial ruin.

For example, the presidents of Border, EP and South Western Districts (three unions who collectively owe SARU and other stakeholders more than R20 million) will decide whether White is good enough to continue in the job.

What is even scarier is that leading sponsors give these 14 provincial presidents money every year to run the game. And these guys in their spare time decide what to do with the broadcasting revenue.

But that’s a story for another day.

Today the story is of Jake White and the absence of rugby structures.

Surely in a professional environment, the Bok coach would be assessed by a rugby committee, made up of blokes whose opinions carry the necessary weight through their own deeds. As White has rightly pointed out, why should he have to justify his performance to people who have never coached or to people who never picked a black player when they were coaching the Boks and won just 50 percent of their games?

He makes a very good point.

A strong rugby presence has always been lacking within the professional set-up of SA Rugby. There is no Director of Rugby; there is no national rugby structure, of which the head coach is a member and not the sole membership.

If the right structures were in place, White’s contract would have been an issue for the Director of Rugby, who in turn, would justify the merits of it to a board. Operationally, this Director of Rugby would make the recommendation and the board would simply have to assess that all appointments are within the strategic blueprint of the company.

This Director of Rugby and whatever rugby committee he would feel fit to appoint would be an operational appointment. This individual would be involved on a day to day basis and be very much in touch with all rugby trends, both technical and strategic. He would be the sounding board to the national coach.

Currently White operates in isolation and all that keeps him afloat is a winning Bok team. If he wins by a point, he’s okay. If he loses by a point, there’s a crisis.

The Bok defeat against the French was not the shock most would like to believe it was. It was not an aberration. The last time the two teams had met France had been as clinical in beating the Boks.

The warnings have been there for some time. White is in desperate need of help. He requires a trusted sounding board and one whose only agenda is the well-being of the Springboks.

He doesn’t have it. What he has are 14 provincial presidents who for a couple of the days in a year turn their attentions to determining his future. It is absurd. Then again it is just another day in South African rugby.

And the reality is that while 14 provincial presidents retain the power of an operational MD, nothing is going to change.

Men who should be custodians are instead the cannons of the game.