MARK KEOHANE, in his SA Rugby magazine column, says Heyneke Meyer should assist Peter de Villiers this year.
I wrote last month that De Villiers’s successor should already be appointed by the start of the international season and he should accompany De Villiers to the Tri-Nations and World Cup. This is the consultant Saru should be investing in. We all know De Villiers – whatever the team conjures up at the World Cup – won’t be reappointed.
The response, by way of e-mails, phone calls and tweets, was overwhelming to the suggestion of a succession plan and equally supportive of Heyneke Meyer being the coach to advance South Africa’s rugby beyond the World Cup.
One naive soul questioned why I was even writing about it because it was so obvious. He then proceeded to call me a racist because I hadn’t suggested Allister Coetzee!
If it was that obvious South African rugby would have done it already and going for Meyer ahead of Coetzee is based on rugby, not race. Both are good blokes. Both have strengths and weaknesses as coaches, but to me Meyer is the better coach.
John Mitchell is another fantastic coach, but I’d still go with Meyer ahead of him because in an ideal world you want the Bok coach to be South African.
I am certainly not anti-foreigners and have always believed the game can only be healthier with the inclusion of foreign players and coaches in our competitions, but you only go with a foreigner to head up your national team if there is no local good enough.
The pecking order locally would be Meyer, John Plumtree and Coetzee. Rassie Erasmus would always be in the mix as a technical adviser, but not as a head coach. He has never been comfortable with that responsibility but his analysis is world class.
Plumtree is a New Zealander by birth and upbringing, but he played for the Sharks, lived in Durban for years, returned to New Zealand to coach and has turned around the Sharks since taking over from Dick Muir. He is also married to a South African, so in my book he is South African enough to coach the Boks.
Mitchell, also introduced to South Africa by Muir, has been as good for the Lions as Plumtree has been at the Sharks. Maybe Muir should be our rugby ambassador. His academy is thriving, he is considered one of the all-time nice guys of the game and he has strengthened the intellectual capital considerably by way of Plumtree and Mitchell. Clearly there is a role for Muir in South African rugby, even if it should never be as head coach of any Super Rugby or provincial team.
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was outstanding for the Boks as a specialist coach at the 2007 World Cup and you only have to spend an hour in his company discussing rugby to know why he found favour with the South African players.
Jones and 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White are good friends and this dynamic was crucial to the success of their professional partnership.
Jones would always have an impact, but I remain unconvinced he and De Villiers could find the kind of common ground there was between White and Jones. The latter duo had a relationship that isn’t there with De Villiers.
Which brings me back to Meyer. He has a relationship with the core of the current Bok squad and there is respect globally for what he achieved at the Bulls. For the second successive month I am appealing to the clever okes at Saru to give him a call and sound him out.
The right decisions have to be made for the well-being of South African rugby. It took Cheeky Watson to bring Alan Solomons back to South African rugby and the turnaround in the Eastern Cape has been remarkable.
Just imagine what Nick Mallett could do back in this country. Just imagine how good the Boks could be if there was investment in the right intellectual capital.
There is enough rugby expertise in this country to mastermind a World Cup victory and there certainly is enough in player pedigree to put any tournament-winning theory into practice. Imagine if everyone pulled together for the right reason?
– This column first appeared in the April issue of SA Rugby magazine.