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Coaches: Ranking the 'rookies'

Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:10
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Beating England at Twickenham is no mean feat
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The year 2012 saw five new coaches at international level, all with ambition and expectations of success.

Their strike rates - read winning percentages - ranged from Steven Hansen's 85.7 percent to Jacques Brunel's 30 percent. We will look at all five newcomers and rank them, based on their 2012 performances.

Obviously Hansen was previously involved - as Graham Henry's assistant - for eight years and took over a well-established team. The quality of the personnel at his disposal is also a far cry from what a man like Brunel had to work with.

To put matters in perspective, we must look at when he was the head coach of the Welsh national team. Hansen became the ninth Welsh coach in 13 years, after Graham Henry parted company with the Welsh Rugby Union in 2002. Hansen, during his two-year stay, won just 11 of his 31 Tests as Welsh coach (35.5 percent). In 2003, for the first time in their history, Wales lost every match in the Six Nations Championship and went on to record a streak of 11 consecutive Test match defeats - a run of losses broken by a win over minnows Romania in August that year. For what it is worth, Henry's strike rate was 61 percent in a four-year stint as Welsh coach.

Those stints in Wales obviously taught the Kiwis the value of continuity - both in terms of playing and coaching personnel - and that reflected in the World Cup champions' dominance this year.

In contrast, Hansen's main rivals in 2012 - Heyneke Meyer (South Africa) and Philippe Saint-Andrè (France) - started afresh, having not been involved with their national teams in any capacity for the previous four years. Meyer's previous stint with the Boks were all very brief periods as a Bok forwards coach (1999 year-end tour with Nick Mallett) and 2001 (under Harry Viljoen)

In essence, Meyer and Saint-Andrè were in a rebuilding phase in 2012.

Saint-Andrè had many of the old hands available. However, he chose to look at some new faces, after the World Cup runners-up, France, became stale and predictable. In the Six Nations his results were less than desirable and June was also a mixed bag. However, an unbeaten year-end run, including a very impressive drubbing of the Wallabies, showed the progress the French have made.

Meyer had lost the services of legendary players like John Smit, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie. Add to that the injuries of Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Bismarck du Plessis, Andries Bekker and Frans Steyn - apart from Spies and Bekker all 2007 World Cup winners - a large chunk out of any squad.

He may have come in for criticism over the Boks' playing style, but given the progress - yes there was real progress - they made saw them finish a year-end tour unbeaten for the first time since 2008.

And beating England at Twickenham is no mean feat ... just ask the All Blacks. You just need to be slightly off you game and you will be in trouble.

That brings us to England coach Stuart Lancaster, who has been involved in the England structures - as mentor of the Saxons (England second string) - but also had to rebuild the team after his country's dismal performance at the World Cup last year, where they were knocked out in the quarterfinals.

Lancaster started his process in the Six Nations, where the English showed promise. Then came a disappointing 0-2 series loss to the Bok in June and a mixed bag in their year-end Tests.

Narrow defeats against Australia and South Africa was followed by a record win over New Zealand. The Kiwis hinted that fatigue was a factor, but it did show that the margins may well be much smaller than most think.

As for Jacques Brunel - he is simply on a hiding to nothing. Italy just don't have the depth to compete with Tier One countries and their wins will always come against Tier Two and Tier Three teams.

For our rankings we used the following:
Tier One countries: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France, England
Tier Two countries: Ireland, Argentina, Wales, Italy, Scotland

Our rankings:

1. Steve Hansen (New Zealand)
Played: 14
Wins: 12, 85.7 percent
Defeats: One, 7.1 percent
Draws: One, 7.1 percent

Versus Tier One:
Played: Six
Wins: Four, 66.7 percent
Defeats: One, 16.7 percent
Draws: One, 16.7 percent

Home: Six, 100.0 percent
Away: Six, 75.0 percent


2. Heyneke Meyer (South Africa)
Played: 12
Wins: Seven, 58.3 percent
Defeats: Three, 25.0 percent
Draws: Two, 16.7 percent

Versus Tier One:
Played: Eight
Wins: Four, 50.0 percent
Defeats: Three, 37.5 percent
Draws: One, 12.5 percent

Home: Four, 66.7 percent
Away: Three, 50.0 percent


3. Philippe Saint-Andrè (France)
Played: 10
Wins: Six, 60.0 percent
Defeats: Three, 30.0 percent
Draws: One, 10.0 percent

Versus Tier One:
Played: Two
Wins: One, 50.0 percent
Defeats: One, 50.0 percent

Home: Four, 66.7 percent
Away: Two, 50.0 percent


4. Stuart Lancaster (England)
Played: 12
Wins: Six, 50.0 percent
Defeats: Five, 41.7 percent
Draws: One, 8.3 percent

Versus Tier One:
Played: Seven
Wins: Two, 28.6 percent
Defeats: Four, 57.1 percent
Draws: One, 14.3 percent

Home: Three, 50.0 percent
Away: Three, 50.0 percent


5. Jacques Brunel (Italy)
Played: 10
Wins: Three, 30.0 percent
Defeats: Seven, 70.0 percent

Versus Tier One:
Played: Four
Wins: None
Defeats: Four, 100.0 percent

Home: Two, 40.0 percent
Away: One, 20.0 percent

By Jan de Koning

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