Os axing exposes back-room chaos

JON CARDINELLI says the South African management malady continues to detract from the Springboks’ reputation and will affect their 2011 World Cup campaign.

The evidence keeps stacking up faster than Saru can sweep it under the carpet. The organisation is clueless when it comes to handling the coaching staff, and the recent axing of scrum coach Os du Randt has shown that very little has changed since the tempestuous period before the 2010 end-of-year-tour.

Head coach Peter de Villiers made a move to replace his assistants, Gary Gold and Dick Muir, by travelling around the country to find alternatives. It later emerged that every big name in South African coaching had turned him down, and he was forced to go back to Gold and Muir and apologise.

Gold and Muir went on tour with Boks, and despite reports of De Villiers’ treacherous travels, Saru claimed Gold and Muir were never in the firing line. Nevertheless, there was a sense that not all was right among De Villiers, Gold and Muir, nor would it ever be as good as when they won the 2009 British & Irish Lions series and the 2009 Tri-Nations. It was a falling out that boded badly for the World Cup.

The latest in the Bok management saga is that Os Du Randt has been shafted. The scrum coach has been trying to get De Villiers on the phone for months in an attempt to discuss his contract. He eventually received an email from Saru saying his services would no longer be required and his contract would not be renewed.

Financial problems have been mentioned as reasons for Du Randt’s axing, although you have to wonder about the communication between Du Randt and Saru. Du Randt said the axing came as a complete surprise, and that he had already rented out his farm and bought a new house because as far as he knew, he was going to the World Cup. He had also ignored some lucrative offers from abroad because he was committed to the Boks.

Sadly, Saru has not shown as much commitment to the two-time World Cup winner, and have taken no steps to clarify their position since the news of Du Randt’s axing broke on Tuesday.

And as far as the financial problems are concerned, you have to ask where Saru will find the cash to pay a replacement. Rassie Erasmus is rumoured to be in talks with Saru about a possible technical adviser position, with Eddie Jones having already rejected an offer to join the Boks. Neither are scrum specialists, though, so this position will still need to be filled.

Finding a quality replacement won’t be easy. While most coaches would consider it an honour to be associated with a team packed with decorated and experienced players, not many will have the stomach to put up with the chaos behind the Bok scenes. As last October’s situation with the assistant coaches highlighted and as the Du Randt axing has shown, you just never know when your number’s up.

Du Randt’s contributions turned the misfiring Bok scrum of 2009 into a competitive unit in 2010. It will be interesting to see how his departure impacts on the players from a mentoring perspective. He plays a big role in the scrumming department, but he is also an inspirational figure within the team set up.

At this late date, one wonders how Saru will attract quality candidates for positions like scrum coach, and whether the omission of Du Randt will further impact on the strained relationship between De Villiers and his assistants.

One thing’s for certain, another controversy and incident of mistrust is the last thing Saru needs in a World Cup year. De Villiers has enjoyed some success during his tenure despite a mass of off-field controversies, but you have to believe that sooner or later, these embarrassments are going to cost the Boks big.

Follow JC on Twitter

Follow SA Rugby on Twitter