SA to take leaf out of NZ book
REACTION: Jan de Koning reports for rugby365 from the Springbok coaching indaba at Newlands.
"It would be wise to take a leaf out of the New Zealand Rugby Union book."
With this one sentence Mark Alexander, President-elect of the South African Rugby Union, described the vision of the coaches' indaba, which began at Newlands in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Alexander, in his opening address, said the event - designed to plot a new direction for the Springboks - is a turning point for South African rugby.
Three former Springbok coaches - Ian McIntosh, Carel du Plessis and Rudolf Straeuli (the latter currently CEO of the Golden Lions Rugby Union) - as well as respected former national captains, Gary Teichmann and John Smit, were among the 54 delegates.
The SARU boss described it as e "very important" event for SA rugby.
"We need to identify common goals for the Springboks," Alexander said.
"We need to develop short-term interventions and long-term planning," he said, adding: "We want to see all [teams in] South African rugby in the No.1 positions in the world.
"We believe it is possible and it begins with coaching.
"We know New Zealand is getting it right, so it would be wise to take a leaf out of their book.
"New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew said: 'We need great coaches to produce great players.'
"If you don't have good coaches, you won't have a successful sport, not long-term anyway."
The SARU boss said another point of reference, according to Alexander, is the way the Kiwis run their Super Rugby franchises.
"All 180 [Super Rugby] players are controlled by the NZRU, with high levels of collaboration with the franchises.
"In South Africa we have six different franchises, each with their own different methods of playing the game.
"Our national team spends the bulk of the year being coached at their respective unions and spend only a short time with the Springbok coaching team before international games.
"This system is clearly not an effective way of managing players and you cannot get the best out of them."
He made it clear the aim of the indaba is to find solutions to the challenges faced by SARU, with collaboration and input from all the unions.
This is the first such coaching indaba in 11 years and, according to the SARU boss, is long overdue.
"It has the potential to change the direction of the game in South Africa," he said, adding that the key word is "collaboration".
"With the vast collection of skills, knowledge and common purpose in this room, it can be done.
"This is a turning point for South African rugby.
"We are all here to work together, to share ideas, and to plot a new direction for the Springboks, a direction that can only be founded on an intense level of collaboration among all the rugby unions in South Africa.
"We need to identify and acknowledge the common goals we all have for the Springboks, we need to place player welfare high on the agenda, and we need to develop short-term interventions and a long-term plan to change the way we deliver the game in South Africa.
"Hopefully in a few years' time we will look back at this indaba with a sense of achievement - knowing that this was where the new direction was forged, where we adopted our shared winning mindset," he said.
By Jan de Koning, reporting from Newlands