Cheetahs and Bulls say 'yes' for coaching indaba
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Some former Springbok coaches may be snubbing the Cape Town coaching indaba, but the Currie Cup finalists will both have their head coaches in attendance.
Despite preparing for the biggest day of their coaching careers, the Currie Cup Final, both Franco Marais (Free State Cheetahs) and Nollis Marais (Blue Bulls) have confirmed their attendance for the two-day event.
Brendan Venter, a close friend of Bok coach Allister Coetzee, is heading up the Cape Town indaba.
Big names who will miss the event include Jake White (coaching in France), Peter de Villiers (on duty in Namibia), Nick Mallett and Andre Markgraaff.
Other former Bok coaches like Carel du Plessis and Ian McIntosh are on the list of 'confirmed names', while Heyneke Meyer (Coetzee's predecessor) is on the 'uncertain' list.
However, the most significant boost to the event is that Marais and Smith will take time out from their busy schedules to travel to Cape Town.
Smith told rugby365 that he will attend only one day.
"I will go down [to Cape Town] on Wednesday, when it is the team's day off," he said.
The rest of the week he will be with his charges as they build up towards Saturday's Currie Cup Final, the first time in almost a decade that the Cheetahs will host the grand finale of South Africa's domestic showpiece.
Marais will attend both Wednesday and Thursday's proceedings, leaving the team's preparations in the hands of his "excellent team" of assistants.
"The guys know what we want," Marais told a media briefing in Pretoria at the weekend.
"I have some excellent coaching staff. If I am not here [in Pretoria] they just go ahead.
"Pine [Pienaar], Anton [Leonard] and Gary [Botha] are here, they know exactly what we want."
Marais added that he does not expect his absence to impact on the team's build-up to the Final.
"If we [only] started preparing now [this week] for the Final it would be too late," he said, adding: "The guys know exactly what we have done the whole season."
He said he wants to go down to the indaba because it is "for the benefit if South African rugby".
"It is very important for me to be there. I support them [Coetzee and Venter, the organisers of the indaba]."
It is interesting that somebody like Mallett, the holder of the longest winning-streak on Bok history, will not partake.
He has been a vocal critic of Coetzee and has had a very public disagreement with Venter over Coetzee's tactics and selection on a major pay-TV station.
The indaba comes in the wake of Coetzee's disastrous start to his Bok coaching career - which has him at a lowly 44 percent success rate, with just four wins in nine Tests, the second-worst record of all post-isolation coaches.
Those include a number of unwanted records - including the first loss to Ireland on South African soil, the first loss to Argentina in Argentina and a record 15-57 loss to the All Blacks.
It is not certain what will or can be achieved at the two-day pow-wow, but there is certainly an air of expectancy ahead of the event.
It is likely to be more about long-term planning than an instant solution for the Springboks ills.
By Jan de Koning