NOW IS THE TIME TO 'ADAPT OR DIE'

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 20:26
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EXCLUSIVE: Eugene Eloff, a two-time former Under-19 World Cup winner, believes the time has come for South African coaches to 'adapt or die'.

Our country is split into groups linked to certain geographical areas.

In the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal supporters are in mourning. In Northern Gauteng, Free State and Eastern Cape they are chilling, wondering what went wrong, preparing for Currie Cup and building for next year's Super 18 ... or whatever it may be. The format changes so often.

Then, off course, in Gauteng central there is enormous excitement in the air. The LIONS are playing in a Super Rugby semifinal.

The Lions now have growing support in all the provinces, as all successful teams do. Not to forget their hardcore supporters all over the world.

There will always be a great rivalry between South Africa's provinces - especially when it comes to their passionate, emotional supporters that will defend their teams fervently, but also criticise them into the ground, specially on the various social media platforms.

These supporters certainly enjoy their right to 'freedom of speech' on these platforms.

But now is the time for the whole South Africa to get behind the Lions and carry them through to a possible Final, whether it's going to be in Johannesburg or Wellington.

Now to get to the gist of my column - the poser facing South African coaches.

I had the privilege to be an understudy of former All Black coach Laurie Mains. He was hardcore, but had an enormous knowledge of the game and knew how to get the best out of his players.

I learnt a lot from him and rate him as one of my mentors.

Johan Ackerman was also in a similar situation, as understudy to John Mitchell.

One thing about the New Zealand system is it works.

Coaches are brought through a system of coaching teams at all levels and the top ones get appointed at Super Rugby level, or one of the international teams.

Their coaching structure is basic and all coaches are involved or informed of new trends, strategies, tactics - the list goes on. Simply put, all coaches are communicated to, informed and involved - which results in all arrows being pointed in the same direction and leadership coming from the senior head coach.

We can go learn from them, it works!

Thee is simply no fast-tracking.

Unfortunately here in South Africa every franchise does its own thing. There is little or no interaction, synergy or maybe guidance from the top.

We tried it in 2007, during the Super 14. The New Zealand and Australian coaches were sharing information on South African teams and we kept everything to ourselves - or shared just limited information.

Nothing seems to have changed. It can be seen in the different styles of playing, fitness levels, skills levels etc.

I am pretty sure Springbok coach Alistair Coetzee will address the situation and get a flowing reliable real time system and structures in place.

As we have seen in a relative disappointing Super Rugby competition for SA teams, we are far behind.

The game has evolved, becoming a fast-paced 15-man game with ball in hand, on feet, running into space with support in numbers.

We have the athletic abilities in our genes and players to play that brand of rugby.

We must stop over-coaching the players, in structured limiting plays, running into faces not spaces. Bashing the ball up, kicking aimlessly and hoping for a good bounce or an opposition error.

The coaches that are not going to adapt to the new style of the modern game will die a slow death and take talented players down with them.

The Lions are the only team that adapted to the new trends and therefore they are in that position, along with the fact that they had consistency in players and coaching staff. Credit to Golden Lions Rugby Union President Kevin de Klerk and CEO Rudolph Straeuli.

We have some of the best players in the world. We must give them the best coaching.

We don't need to go learn from Eddie Jones or any other foreign coaches, we have the knowledge in our own country.

We must put our egos and pride aside and speak to guys like Nick Mallett, Carel du Plessis and Dawie Snyman - the list goes on.

Let us create our own brand, our own culture with our own people.

Off course we interact with all the top international coaches, but then we must share that info on a open forum.

I like giving solutions - just remember these are just my opinions.

I am open for criticism, that way I also grow, learn and improve.

So here is my plan:
* Employ a Director of Rugby (The best man for the job and not a political appointment).
* He has a department/committee that does research and development (keep info current and flowing in regards to the latest trends etc).
* With the head coach and all Super rugby coaches and external specialists develop the blueprint strategies and tactics ( new brand of rugby).
* Draw up a strategic plan from grassroots levels right to top level rugby, with goals to be achieved in different phases (the golden thread from the top to the bottom).
* Communicate the blueprint down to all coaches at all levels via coaching courses, seminars, conferences, one-on-one and consistent forums (ALL LEVELS). Keep coaches informed!
* Monitor the progress and consistently have a flow of communication and input.
* Measure success and adapt to constant change.

I know this sounds easy and maybe far-fetched, but it might strike a nerve somewhere or make sense.

We must transform players and coaches at all levels, we do have that responsibility.

I just don't believe we should do it on international or national level. Those levels of rugby is our image to the world out there and there you pick the best players and coaches on merit.

In closing, I want to touch on Gary Teichmann's appointment as new Chief Executive Officer of the Sharks.

I do believe he is the right guy to get the Sharks back on track.

Good luck for the task at hand.

Maybe time to get a strong guy at the Eastern Province Kings as well, and not puppets to window dress.

We need all our provinces to perform at all levels, that way our game improves and the quality with that.

It is for the future and in the interest of our rugby's longevity and standards.

Good luck to Johan Ackermann, his management and to Warren Whiteley and the boys - the whole South Africa and foreign Lions supporters are behind you!

By Eugene Eloff
@LoffieEloff
@rugby365com