Master Mac must be backed

An investment must be made in the skills of Ian McIntosh.

In England they have welcomed the game’s new coaching Messiah in Martin Johnson. It is laughable.

Johnson, England World Cup captain in 2003, is supposedly the man to lead England back to the top of the rugby mountain. The fact that he has never coached a team is secondary to most. The appointment has been described as revolutionary, brave and long overdue.

There has been the odd exception among the critics, most notably former England lock Paul Ackford, who writes for the Sunday Telegraph.

Ackford, generous with his praise of Johnson the player, asks how it is possible that Johnson the player is given such a vote of confidence as Johnson the coach/ manager when he has not a minute’s experience in that facet of the game.

He then adds that he doesn’t believe Johnson will become the first World Cup-winning captain to guide a team to World Cup victory as a coach/manager.

Every English coach in the Premiership must be wondering what happened to the basic requirement of coaching levels or a pecking order determined through experience.

England’s authorities, in denial on the state of their national team, want a quick fix and they believe it will come in the guise of an inspirational former player. They only needed to refer to South Africa’s appointment of Carel du Plessis in 1997 as an example that the reputation of a world-class player is not a guarantee for a successful coach.

Du Plessis was a brilliant wing, but his introduction to international coaching came a decade too early. His lack of experience and his naivety back then proved a deadly cocktail for the Boks. Johnson, like Du Plessis, may find it is easier to play the game than to coach or manage an international team.

The value of the coach in professional rugby must never be underestimated. Good coaches transform average teams and good players into very good ones. Coaches not good enough have the opposite impact.

It is why we in South Africa should value our coaching resources even more. We’ve lost Nick Mallett to Italy and Jake White and Heyneke Meyer currently aren’t involved in South African rugby. But there’s the not so small matter of former Bok and Sharks coach Ian McIntosh.

Mac’s status in South Africa needs no introduction, but it is wrong that he should be a master of ceremonies when so many young coaches are struggling.

McIntosh was one of the World Cup-winning squad’s national selectors and he was deserving of an association with a World Cup-winning team, but his involvement with South African rugby should be greater than advising a national coach on selection.

There is no better individual to coach the coaches. I am not advocating a Director of Rugby position for McIntosh, but if the system allowed for a Director of Rugby then said person’s first appointment should be to include the likes of McIntosh.

Super 14 coaches Eugene Eloff, Frans Ludeke and Naka Drotske, the national under 21 coach and even the Bok coach Peter de Villiers would benefit through any input from McIntosh.

There is no substitute for experience in the job; something England and Johnson will find. South African rugby has men with substance to their CV’s and aspirations to serve the game. Primary to this list is McIntosh.

I don’t agree that coaching has become a young man’s game. It remains the game of students aiming to become masters. Age should never be a factor.

Recognition of the skills of old foxes like McIntosh adds credibility to rugby. Stories like Johnson’s appointment devalue a system that advocates you coach at one level to ultimately coach at the highest level.

Coaching success is earned gradually and this can’t be manufactured without the necessary effort and results because of a perceived lack of time.