Boks need more chiefs – Jake

Jake White

Watching the football World Cup reminded me of an innovation that rugby has picked up from that sport – the prehab coach.

Prevention is always better than cure and the new thing in rugby is prehab training. Rather than waiting for weak hamstrings to turn into an injury that requires rehabilitation, the prehab coach looks at the results from testing and gets players to do extras that strengthen their weaknesses so that an injury can be avoided.

In football, they’ve worked out that it’s better to employ two or three more physios than are required because it costs the club less money to pay those extra physios – who ensure that players can get treatment whenever they need it – than to have four or five stars out injured.

Whether we like it or not, New Zealand are the leaders in rugby and part of the reason is because they think this way about their coaching staff.

At points during the period they won back-to-back World Cups, the All Blacks had Wayne Smith, Steve Hansen and Graham Henry in the same coaching box.

Those guys weren’t just head coaches of three club sides, they were the best of the best. New Zealand headhunted three international coaches to sit in the box – Smith had been head coach of New Zealand, Hansen had coached Wales and Henry had coached Wales and the British & Irish Lions before heading up the All Blacks.

Most coaches who get fired from a national post never come into the system again, but New Zealand went and got Wayne Smith to come back.

The reason they went to those lengths is because three international head coaches working together would all know the dynamics of that job and what was required from the head coach and his assistants. They all had first-hand experience of the job and were sensitive to the outside factors that influence a head coach, like the media, sponsorship stakeholders and board members.

When the pressure is on in the coaches box, and decisions have to be made about substitutions and refereeing calls, a coaching staff needs experience to understand what’s at stake so that they can get through that with the best outcome.

Sometimes, having an assistant who has been a head coach at a high level, one who understands the sum of all the parts, is more beneficial than an innovative, but inexperienced assistant.

Often what happens in South Africa is you go from being an assistant coach at the Boks to being a Super Rugby franchise head coach, and it should probably be the other way round. I’m a product of that and I know what it’s like to have assistants who have been head coaches.

I also know the difference when you don’t have guys like that in the booth with you. When some of your assistant coaches have never been to New Zealand before and the Hurricanes are running your team to pieces in Wellington, there’s silence when you ask “what should we do here?” – and it’s not because they’re thinking, it’s because they’ve got absolutely no idea.

When the pressure is on, that’s when you need guys with experience, because that’s when the holes open up.

People understand the importance of having players with lots of Test caps who can handle the pressure of big games. Sometimes having a coaching staff made up of head coaches who understand the nuances of different situations, places and players is a helluva bonus.

I don’t have the perfect model, but the one with Wayne Smith, Steve Hansen and Graham Henry is the benchmark. In my time at the Boks, I had Gert Smal and Allister Coetzee who had been head coaches. And that’s why I got Eddie Jones to join us, because he’d been in the previous World Cup final. He’d been there and done it; it was a no-brainer.

After we won, people said it was because of Eddie. That doesn’t bother me at all because I’ve got no doubt that he helped us win – that’s the reason I brought him in!

We didn’t necessarily do everything Eddie suggested, but the conversations we had made us better. We played good-cop, bad-cop and Eddie smoothed over speed bumps with players and management that could have slowed us down on the way to becoming world champions.

Like the three guys who sat in the All Blacks box, we all had egos and our own ideas about the game, because it’s impossible that international head coaches are aligned on everything.

I’m sure there were times at the All Blacks when the coaches challenged each other and not everyone was happy with the decisions that were taken, but they would have handled that internally because they had the common desire to keep the team winning.

Eddie has obviously been taking flak for England’s slump, and that kind of flak will eventually hit Rassie Erasmus just as it has hit Michael Cheika and Guy Noves. It happens to everyone.

But maybe New Zealand have shown the way. If South Africa was coached by Rassie, Heyneke Meyer and Nick Mallett, wouldn’t the Boks be in a better position to avoid speed bumps, and win next year’s World Cup?

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Sia meleni

    That could actually work well for us but SARU is brankrupt no money for that. They are poor to manage to pay all 3 managers. I would like to see Alister back to redeem himself in the boks n replace nick. He has good potential. Remember the 24-25 game in cape town against NZ. We played well there.

    • Gerhard Els Gerhard Els

      I would really like to know why on earth people are still listening to comments from Jake White. His going on like his the best couch the Bokke ever had. His going on and on about the couches in South Africa and how they not good and lack training. Now he want more couches for the Bok team. Why the hell didn’t you ja! you Jake White stayed in South Africa and helped the couches in South Africa. O ja! let me tell you why not; money means more to you than the Bokke so please just keep your mouth shut and keep your stupid ideas to yourself. Rassie have more passion and love for rugby in his little finger than what you have in your in tire body.

    • Sokker

      Coetzee had for a few years the biggest choice for player selection in any province/region in the world. What did he achieve for so many years? If he was that good I am sure the Stormers would have something to show for it after all these years. There are only a few real good coaches in the world and currently non of them are in SA. Rassie must still proof his worth against the ABs.

    • Barry Smith

      Attributing a home ground loss to Coetzee’s greatest moment is probably about right!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry. Yes and Jantjies was the flyhalf that day and the Boks were leading 10-8 when he was subbed by that ‘golden boy’ Pollard in the 56th minute, go figure. Cheers.

  • Leo

    I am a fan of Jake, but he is forgetting somewhat the inexperienced lot that Nick Mallet had under him. Including a old teacher from Jeppe called Jake. They were one of the worlds top four teams ever, statistically. Going on to win 17 succesive games. Only three other teams could ever achieve that. A second successful management team won the world cup with names such as Alistair Coetzee, Gert Smal (no major teams coached up until then) and Zola Yeye… the same teacher heading that one. All you need is a strong visionary with a plan. Nick proved that. Jake himself proved that. Rassie will too. I am sure of it.

  • Barry

    Don’t think Rassie will be able to do it man alone. What Jake say is right you need a good team of coaches around you, people that can give input. Rassie took Sticks back because Saru said he must to get back at Alistair Coetzee. In the mean time Rassie is one advisor short.Good luck Bokke

  • Pierre

    I fully agree Jake. We also need succession planning, you want your assistant coach to eventualy take over as head coach…just like Steve Hansen. That way there is continuaty. In SA we pick n head coach and just pick assistant coaches to kind of help out, not with a plan in mind. Every time a new head coach takes over, we start all over again. Think Johan Ackermann should be assistant coach to take over from Rassie one day.

    • Chris Perry

      Brains trust is whats required. Just like you need a winning team on the field, you need the same in the coaching box, just like the ABs do.

      I maybe biased as Im a Kiwi living in CPT.

      Kia ora. ?

  • Craig

    I certainly think Jake has a point but as somebody already said SA rugby is broke. So next best thing is using the Super 15 coaches like he did with Swys. But I would suggest for each series draw in two ie Swys and Robert Du Preez and then end of year John Mitchell and Fleck by the world cup select his best combination. This will also help the development of a national game plan.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Craig, Fleck and Du Preez, you must be joking surely, Neither of them could teach a flea to jump imo. Check their team’s SR status at the moment in a year when Gavin Rich and Co. thought they walked on water. The jury is still out on Mitchell as well.

      Coaching ‘dom krag’ is easy, ten man rugby and hope for the best. Balanced expansive rugby is not easy to coach because you require all your 15 players to be multi skilled and visionary and the complicated game plan patterns and defensive patterns are far more complicated. For that you need visionary coaches who understand the modern game. Fleck and Du Preez definitely don’t pass muster and it’s not something you can just acquire at your local grocer, it’s instinctive.

      The same applies to the players. They must have the skills and vision and instincts that match a fast paced intensive game plan. For example Kriel’s lack of these skills on Saturday possibly cost the Boks two tries, because having been brought up on dom krag he lacked the natural instincts to close the deal at the pressure moments.

      We all know the modern game dictates that scoring tries are a no brainer for winning tests. Kicking your way to victory has been placed on the scrap heap of history in the same way that the Boks can’t bludgeon their way to victory with their forwards like in dinosaur times. You need to be smart, out think and out skill your opponents front and back with suitably skilled players who have the MENTAL fortitude to come out on top. ( Ok I won’t mention the Lions, lol ). Until we have the coaches to coach these dynamics effectively with players to match, our 6th placed world ranking will be unchanged for the foreseeable future.

      My answer is for SA rugby to go shopping and to be prepared to pay for coaches with the right credentials. The jury is still out on Rassie in my opinion and he will need all the help he can get. Cheers.

      • John Comyn

        “We all know the modern game dictates that scoring tries are a no brainer for winning tests. Kicking your way to victory has been placed on the scrap heap of history”

        Interesting Herman! Ireland – Wallabies a try apiece Ireland won, Boks – England a try apiece England won. It would appear that kicking your way to victory is not on the scrap heap just yet.

        • Herman Schroder?

          John and when last has a team beaten the AB’s by kicking their way to victory ? You need to get past them to win any trophy including the WC but you need to score tries to do it. Your two examples are not indicative of the huge majority of tests that are won by more tries being scored by the winners.

          So your game plan must be with that in mind because you can’t play conservative rubbish and then decide to play expansively against the AB’s. It must be part and parcel of your every game so that you can take on the big one with a suitably skilled team that is well prepared. Dom Krag simply won’t cut it. Fact is SA teams are being out muscled most of the time these days so we do not have an option going forward. Rassie so far has not convinced me he has come to terms with balanced expansive rugby and basically confessed he got the tactics wrong in the first two England tests.

          In other words do what the Lions did in SR these past few years ( what’s new ), match the NZ teams try for try or better and you will at least get a shot at glory. Simple really but we need visionary coaches and suitably skilled players and regrettably most of them are, or will be, in Gloucester this year. Cheers.

  • Nick.

    Could not disagree more.

    ‘experience’ does not automatically result in understanding.

    Jake’s example of…… ‘When some of your assistant coaches have never been to New Zealand before and the Hurricanes are running your team to pieces in Wellington, there’s silence when you ask “what should we do here?” – and it’s not because they’re thinking, it’s because they’ve got absolutely no idea.’……………… Is a good one, and a good story. When watching the All Blacks, or other well coached teams, the response after half time in terms of what the team does is a good reflection on the coaching staff. What the coach says and advises here is of crucial importance at any level. The wrong thing or the wrong emphasis can completely torpedo a teams chances by way of a wrong sub, a tantrum or even a stupid tactical adjustment.

    Quality of experience also counts.

    That example Jake illustrated must have been pretty frustrating, and I’m sure Jake is referring to an actual event. maybe he fired the bloke, rather than reflecting on whether the lack of preparation was his fault. We will never know! but I often wondered how the wonderfully experienced Toetie [check Toetie’s loooong and unimpressive coaching career out for yourself] would be summing things up in the box at times like that. That judgement is based entirely on the post match interviews I have seen of him. Include or add Meyer’s name here if you choose, or Chean Roux for that matter. Is Jake’s example one of a totally unprepared individual? Raw intelligence and understanding will always come out trumps. Those attributes, and not necessarily ‘experience’ need to be identified in people and given the platform to develop, hopefully before international level. To be fair, Jake suggests this in so far as he describes coaching pathways, ..’Often what happens in South Africa is you go from being an assistant coach at the Boks to being a Super Rugby franchise head coach, and it should probably be the other way round.’

    Imagine Rassie with Jake; Heineke; Mallet and Toetie in the box.
    ………Hold that picture in your head for a bit without laughing……
    OK. Point made.

    Recipe for ‘moer mekaar’ imo. Good teams are made up individuals with complimentary attributes.

    A good talented, young/inexperienced one must surely be better than an old,experienced chap without the right attributes.

    • Herman Schroder?

      I was quite enjoying the read and then he mentioned Heyneke. By the way why can’t Ashwin and Mallet be Rassie’s assistants, lol. Cheers.

    • Greg Shark

      Oh my.… a recipe for claiming ‘quota’ reference, patronizing and apartheid participants…..

    • Leo

      I was laughing by myself when he said Rassie, Meyer and Mallet as well, they would be in their first scuffel during the first planning session. The thing about inexperience… it also comes without the EGO. If you have a rough diamond, it’ll serve you longer than a Mallet. (Big fan of Nick though).

  • Carl

    Isn’t he essentially doing this with having the franchise coaches join for a series? Eg. Swys has been there for the England series.

  • Maxwell

    Another way of saying Rassie needs help. Toetie had to look for local chiefs and now Rassie can look at international chiefs? Ai.

  • Herman Schroder?

    I’ve never been a Toetie fan and was probably his biggest critic these past few years but geez is Rassie being handed carte blanche to do anything he wants to help refloat that sunken ship ‘S.O.S. Springbok’ which Toetie in the main was denied ?. I have no problem with that in principle because that ship needs to be refloated urgently but Jake’s call ( though nothing has been confirmed yet ) tells me he is not too convinced about Rassie’s credentials. Is Jake perhaps sending out a subtle signal that, hey chaps I’m available ?

    On the face of it those coaches he mentioned will never be able to play second fiddle to each other. Mallett has in any case made it quite clear that he is not available and imo I believe a lot of it has to do with having to toe the ‘quota’ line which Rassie has now adopted with a vengeance. I also believe Rassie has been too hasty in handing out so many new caps and if these players cannot kick on then we are going to have quite a few ‘one day wonders’ running around in our Franchises. If Rassie is hell bent on playing the numbers game it may very well come back to bite him come crunch time in the RC and the WC.

    First all the overseas players are now freely available ( a big mistake in my books ), add to that the fast tracking of ‘quotas’ ( too much too soon in my books ) and now a possible phalanx of top class coaches to boost Rassie’s brains trust ? Shame, poor Toetie must be wondering if there’s any justice in this world.

    The only thing that amazes me though is that we have a true blue coach in Johan Ackerman who could team up quite easily with Swys to help Rassie adapt to expansive rugby but that does not seem to be an option for our current leadership. The RC is going to be a defining time for Rassie and the Boks and I wish him well especially if he takes up the expansive game challenge. If not and we go pear shaped in the RC, we could be heading for the UK in November to face a few teams ranked above us who are thirsting for Bok blood. Ooh boy.

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