Everything possible must be done to extend Brendan Venter’s Springbok consultancy – at least until the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Increased efforts hopefully are also ongoing to ensure Rassie Erasmus’s return from Munster to oversee South Africa’s national rugby set-up, including the Springboks.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is going nowhere and every effort must be made to help Coetzee navigate the challenge of seeing out his national contract.
Coetzee clearly has embraced the support of Venter. The results were obvious in the first Test win against France. Venter was introduced to the Boks to work on the ‘exit strategy’ and also ‘defence’.
But the good doctor’s role extends a structured ‘two areas’ operational brief and he already has added considerable rugby intellectual capital to the Springboks, who looked a different team to the one that stumbled through 2016.
Coetzee has to take credit for identifying Venter and then for allowing him to do his thing. The same approach, in relation to Erasmus, would further strengthen Springbok and South African rugby.
South African rugby’s problem has never been in the production of raw playing talent; it’s been the cultivation and nurturing of good coaches.
Venter has proved his ability time and again whenever called in to help fix a problem. He is one of world rugby’s most sought after ‘Mr Fixit’s’, but I believe in this instance his services are needed beyond the short term.
Venter is currently contracted to the Italian Rugby Federation until the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but Italy are in the same World Cup pool as South Africa. Venter has publicly stated he would again never coach against the Springboks after helping Italy to a historic win against the Boks in 2016.
His role therefore becomes very limited within the Italian structures and I can’t see the Italians finding value in having access to his coaching acumen, but not really having access because of his refusal to contribute to potential future success against South Africa.
Venter has shown intent to want to be involved with the Springboks and hopefully there will be confirmation post the French series that he will add more substance to the resurgence of the Springboks. Venter is needed if the Boks are to close the gap on the All Blacks and finish the year closer to second in the world than their current fifth.
It took just one Test win to improve the Boks’s world ranking from seventh to fifth but, given France’s slide down the rankings, it would take just one defeat in Durban for a reversal.
The Boks won’t lose in Durban. I am confident they’ll win the series 3-0 and have been consistent in writing that for the past month.
I expected the Boks to win 13 points-plus in Pretoria (please add previous col link here), but I expected a more disjointed performance. The Boks were better than most would have imagined. They were disciplined and expressive and played with calm. They looked well organized, especially on defence and at restarts, and they had the confidence to attack the on-field situation.
Venter’s hand in all of this was obvious, but don’t be too dismissive of Coetzee’s influence. He remains the head coach and he would have contributed to how he wanted the team to play and he determined the impact of Venter and the two specialist assistants in Johann van Graan and Franco Smith.
Coetzee deserves as much applause as the rest of the coaching group.
The key is now to keep this group together and allow them to develop and learn from the tougher challenges.
France will be better in Durban because coach Guy Noves will have the option to select the nine players involved in the Top 14 final. Noves will also have a better idea of the strength of the new look Boks.
The Durban match will be the toughest in the series. It is the one France would have targeted and the Boks will have to be even more clinical and disciplined to get the win.
I have no doubt the Boks will be even better. Pretoria’s display would have given the players greater confidence and fuelled faith in the coaching staff.
Pretoria’s win was significant because it was primarily achieved with local based players. It showed the Boks can win with the best of the talent picked from Super Rugby and it gives Coetzee a platform from which to build.
France, in Pretoria, were poor and they would have taken a beating playing away from home against New Zealand, Ireland, England, Australia and probably Wales and Scotland.
The Boks did nothing out of the ordinary in hammering France in Pretoria but they weren’t ordinary in the manner of victory.
There is much to cheer in the way the Boks played because that was more telling than a final result that never was in doubt.
Durban will be dangerously different but the result will thankfully be the same.
*This col first appeared on Sport24.co.za