Mallett must deliver hammer blow

Keo, in his Business Day column, writes that Nick Mallett is the man to do the ambulance job for the Springboks.

Mallett must be approached to put together a blueprint that will give the Springboks a chance at the 2007 World Cup

Failure to do so will make the South African Rugby Union (Saru) bosses as culpable as national coach Jake White.

I do blame White for the chaos of the past five internationals. He picks the team every weekend. He determines strategy and he has to take responsibility.

Five successive Test defeats, two of them in SA, and seven successive defeats against the big four are unacceptable. In any other business environment, White would be gone.

South African rugby has a way of rewarding mediocrity, be it with coaches, administrators or players, but someone within the organisation must show the leadership and make a decision.

White’s post-match drivel that the problem is not with the players, was an emphatic, if unintended, concession that the problem is Jake White.

White’s stubbornness over the past three months has shown his immaturity as an international coach. His insistence on selecting the same players who have failed him consistently for two years also shows he is in no state to make the right rugby decisions.

White maintains a faith in players who have supposedly succeeded for him before, but the success is minor compared with the failures. White also says there is nothing wrong with a defensive system.

But in the past seven Tests against the big four, White’s Boks have conceded 27 tries.

The Boks that lost away to Ireland and England in 2004 have not advanced in play or with results, and the coach is not able to explain each defeat. His excuses every time are weak and his arguments have no substance.

The situation can be resolved with a total clean-out after the completion of the Tri-Nations. One season is still enough for Mallett to turn the rabble into a World Cup threat.

Replacing White with an inexperienced senior coach would be inviting further trouble. Rassie Erasmus and Dick Muir have the potential to become national coaches, but let their apprenticeship at provincial and regional level end first. Pieter de Villiers has obvious qualities but would benefit more working under Mallett for a season, with the plan to take over the Boks in 2008.

If the emphasis is on finding a black Bok coach then some rugby intelligence must be applied. Give Mallett the ambulance job of getting a quick fix for 2007 and challenge him to bring De Villiers, the coach, up at the same time.

Saru’s bosses must be prepared to show humility in approaching Mallett and allowing him to gather the minds that can make a difference. Mallett, the Bok coach six years ago, is a better coach today. He has matured in France and it is rubbish that he is not an option because he has coached the Boks before.

His win record of 71% over a three-year international period is the best by a South African coach in a similar time frame.

He made mistakes, most notably the axing of Gary Teichmann before the 1999 World Cup. But he has since acknowledged the mistake and advanced his career. For this emergency, he is the only man to lead the Boks.

Make Mallett head coach. I am sure he would immediately approach Heyneke Meyer to be his forwards coach and the Saru request has to be that De Villiers be made assistant coach, with emphasis on the backs.

Another to involve on the technical side would be Brendan Venter, while Gary Gold is an option as a defensive specialist.

It is bizarre that Venter is not involved in any coaching capacity in SA, while Gold proved his value when employed by the Boks in 2004 as the defensive coach.

That would be a starting point. Saru has to entice Mallett to get involved, now and beyond 2008. Make him coach until after the World Cup and then make him national director of rugby. Show him there is a succession plan to keep him loyal to South African rugby and give De Villiers, Meyer, Erasmus and Muir as big a carrot to keep them motivated.

We have a crisis in Springbok rugby. But there is a solution if those who are running the game want it.