The two-day national coaching indaba which I co-facilitated in Cape Town last week could not have gone any better. Prior to the meeting, there was criticism directed towards the first SA Rugby Indaba since 2005, with some suggesting that it was an exercise in public relations. However, having overseen proceedings, I can categorically state that that was not the case.
Prior to the start of the indaba, I remarked to the relevant individuals who were gathered – from Super Rugby coaches to former national mentors – that if we apply our minds over the next two days and really come from the heart, we will be able to contribute towards the betterment of South African rugby. We were aware that we weren’t going to solve every single problem within the space of a couple of days. However, from my perspective, a massive positive was that we set the wheels of the process in motion. For my money, the most important elements to emanate from the indaba was the way in which the assembled role-players contributed and the openness to proceedings. A recurring theme was how ego-less the personnel in the room were. It was refreshing that all involved showed up with an attitude of: “What can I do for SA rugby instead of what can SA rugby do for me?” because that has not proved to be the case in the past. Furthermore, I was extremely impressed with how many good ideas came to the fore during the gathering, and all the contributions were fantastic because they were practical, technically-driven solutions aimed at addressing the shortcomings within SA rugby.
Louis Koen delivered an outstanding presentation in terms of what is taking place behind the scenes within SA Rugby’s junior structures and talent identification system. Listening to Koen, who currently serves as a high performance coach at Saru, it was virtually impossible not to feel hopeful as far the future of SA rugby is concerned. Koen, who played 15 Tests for his country, is tasked with the implementation of the national skills program, which aims to develop South African rugby union players through all age groups to the national team. I believe that if we can employ a similar system at the top and emulate what they are doing from the bottom, we can ultimately marry the two approaches and harness a successful system. And in a few years’ time, South African rugby can again prove a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has taken heat from a results point of view during his first season at the helm. However, he deserves credit for conceptualizing the indaba and for the first time in living memory the national coach is in sync with the local Super Rugby coaches. If Coetzee can implement the learnings from the indaba, in my book, it would make his tenure as national coach an unbelievable success. The indaba is not a perfect process but an invaluable starting point where we listened to and learned from each other in equal measure. The relationships that were forged in the conference room were so positive and some real tangibles were forthcoming. As a result of the discussions, in the coming weeks a document will be produced in order to outline the culture that we feel SA rugby players must adhere to and the general attack and defence strategies, set-piece and territory options and discipline protocols to be followed. In essence, it’s a guideline to a blueprint. We have now started with a skeleton and, as time goes by, we will add meat to the bones.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup-winner has enjoyed an illustrious playing and coaching career. He proved hugely successful during his time as Saracens’ director of rugby and guided the Sharks to Currie Cup triumph in 2013. Venter now practises as a medical doctor and has been appointed as London Irish’s technical director. Follow him on Twitter: @BrendanVenter