Nollis is learning on the job – Jake

Jake White

Hearing that there have been calls for Nollis Marais to be fired after the Bulls lost badly against the Crusaders got me thinking about the difference between the coaching pathways in South Africa and New Zealand.

The reality is that we’ve got guys coaching Super Rugby now who have never been assistant coaches for a Super Rugby team. Australia’s got the same problem.

That’s very seldom the case if you look at how many years and games the coaching staffs in NZ have under the belt before becoming Super Rugby head coaches.

And that gap is also there if you look at the coaching backgrounds of the assistant coaches – compare the Bulls’ assistant coaches to the Crusaders and Chiefs, for example.

Coaching is a tough gig. It’s a results-driven business, and that’s why you need a clear pathway and an auditing system to ensure coaches are groomed for high-pressure positions, so that they’re ready for the challenge.

In comparing New Zealand and South Africa we obviously have a bigger player exodus, but, fundamentally, there’s something flawed about our coaching structures. Maybe that’s what the indabas should be focusing on.

As things stand, you could probably pick a coaching staff in SA made up of long-time schoolmasters who have been coaching 1st XVs for 15 years that could handle the pressures better than the guys we’ve got in Super Rugby now.

This is not a dig at Nollis. I don’t know him and I’m sure he’s a good junior coach, but it’s tough on him at this level because he’s never been on a Super Rugby tour before. He’s never been to Hamilton, and suddenly he’s coaching against the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium.

That’s not his fault – our coaching pathways have allowed someone with no experience to be in that position, so how can South African rugby expect different results if this is the criteria?

That would be unheard of in New Zealand because they understand that, generally, Super Rugby is not the level where coaches should be cutting their teeth. Kiwi coaches learn their lessons with other teams.

Where we get it wrong in South Africa is that we think the coaching “brainstrust” is all about the Xs and Os of rugby – the technical differences between a tighthead prop and a loosehead prop, when to kick and how to attack. It’s actually got much more to do with experience than people think.

I started coaching in 1982. By 1997, I was with the Lions as a fitness trainer, and the time I spent there helped me to understand what Super Rugby is like in New Zealand.

Before I became a Super Rugby coach, I’d coached the Springboks, the SA U21s, I’d been an assistant coach, a fitness trainer and a schoolmaster for 10 years.

When I coached the Brumbies and Sharks, we won the Super Rugby conference three times in a row and the Brumbies set the record for most consecutive away wins. That doesn’t mean I got it right every time – we lost in the semi-finals – but I could always revert back to what I had experienced as a coach.

How to tour is a good, practical example of where that coaching experience plays a big part in a team’s preparation. A lot of SA sides, when they have matches in New Zealand, think that making a base in Coogee or Manly is the way to go.

It means you spend some time on the beach in Sydney, and the weather is better than it would be in New Zealand. It also means you can make one base and come and go from that base when you have Trans-Tasman matches. But in a lot of ways, you’re also telling the players it’s holiday time, because it’s laid back and the sun is shining.

If you go to New Zealand instead, it could be cold and raining, and the culture and media there is a lot more full on when it comes to rugby.

The coach has got to make that call, and he’s got to know whether his team can cope with his decision and still produce on the field. If you’ve got an experienced team, they can understand the bigger picture and they will still perform, but if you’ve got a young team, they may sense it’s a holiday and it can come back to bite you on Saturday.

It was the same with the Sharks. Having served as an assistant coach there before, I knew they had a history under Ian McIntosh of mimicking their home schedule overseas, and so we did the same when I was the head coach.

And when you play England at Twickenham, they tell you that the stadium and roads around the stadium will be closed, so you have to get to the change room two hours before kickoff. Then, on game day, you find out that the England team arrives one hour before kickoff, in the same traffic…

Now if you don’t pass that kind of information onto the next Bok coach, then he just accepts that those are the rules, and his team arrives two hours before kickoff, and that means their pre-game routine is completely different to what they’re used to at home.

It’s all part of getting experience. If you don’t have it, it becomes hit-and-miss. That’s the intellectual property that is missing in South Africa.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • christo

    Good read !! Realy gives insight .

  • Redge

    My wish is that we never have to read anything about the most arrogant coach in rugby,Jake the snake White. Overrated.Won WC by accident after the AB’s choked again and with the help or rather leadership of Eddie Jones

    • Jay August

      Really low-IQ comment!

      This is exactly the sickness we have in SA, not respecting knowledge. I always found Jake a little OTP but his knowledge was second to none and you have to respect him for his understanding of the game and its pressures.

      A man who refuses to listen to someone because he has an emotional prejudice is not a very smart person!!

    • Albert Hoffman

      100% right! just keep quite Joke White.

    • Jan

      You’re clearly clueless bru. Jake is awesome.

    • anthony

      I agree. He could only rely on a driving maul and some gaining grounds. We never played rugby that could improve us as a team. The slow Blou Bul type games got Jake a few results but nothing consistent or dynamic whatsoever. Winning a world cup means nothing if you are consistently losing during the 4 years.

    • Willem Engelbrecht

      You are an idiot. Jake almost got fired just before world cup because of Luke Watson & how do you win a world cup by accident? If Eddie had the same selection criteria as an SA couch lets see how well he would do!!!

    • Greg

      where did you d-redge that comment from….pathetic!

    • Ryan

      We won the WC boet, you’ll never take that away from JW, like him or not.
      By the way, which team were you shouting for at the time, did you shout ?
      Look further than what’s in front of you, it’s man-management !

    • Fred

      Ignorant comment. You don’t win a World Cup by accident.

    • Wes

      The guy makes alot of sense and is 100% spot on in his analyse of the situation. No matter what you think of him personally he gets results.

  • Andre

    The R W C under Jake White was won conclusively. his discipline and integrity had everything to do with a winning coach and ably compensated for any other technical deficiencies.
    I believe he is right – you cannot inherit I P – You have to earn it through a combination of education and endeavour = EXPERIENCE

  • rebelle

    Sir one question in mind, Nollis, when the super rugby coach job was open at the bulls, who applied?
    If you apply for this,
    then you should no what you doing, so accept the fact he is not up to standard in the requirements of Super Rugby. Stormer’s have the same loss and Cheetahs.We cant always blame the coach and sometimes it just looks the picture if players cant perform.

    • Fanie

      We have forgotten the van Graan connection at the Bulls and van Graan at the Boks.As long as they remain in rugby where ever you will find these people that are bigger than rugby.

  • Max

    We seriously have to stop the outflow of players and coaches who are using SA rugby to snatch up an overseas contract and who dont have Springbok rugby at heart but their own enrichments. We need to smother this problem as soon as possible. Their are using SARU’s problems as an excuse. We need to stop it at provincial level up to Springbok level. Your can never select your second team(we moving towards 3rd team) or junior team to compete with the first teams of highly professional countries. Arrogance is our greatest enemy and thee above comments are examples of it. We need to stop being of the problem and start being part the solution.

  • Max

    The quality players and coaches of last 5 years are’nt the same as the 2003 to 2011 players. Production of quality players on Springbok level were interrupted by outflow of Sprinboks which left coaches to start from scratch again in certain postions and the problem worsen as more and more players left on Springboks and it deepend then to Superrugby and provincal level. Once we have stop the outflow we will soon start producing worldclass players again.

  • Hopeful

    The reality is that both knowledge and superior intelligence gained from experience are lacking…..we either allow these coaches time to develop and with that will come losses and aggravation or we look abroad for coaches…..the latter a short term solution only prolonging the home grown option…

    However there needs to be a need to learn and a willingness to grow, no great couch found his talent from theory alone…roll up your sleeves and get stuck in

    • Max

      i couldn’t agree with you more. Time to get our hands dirty by working together and start building on a once feared and fearless world class and legendary Springbok team. I hope the players the coaches read the comments of their biggest fans. if they dont get goosebumps when they read it’ it surely means that they have hidden agendas on the cards.

  • Jack Black

    We’ve got so many great coaches coaching around the world these days – why can’t we bring them back? Jake White, Rassie Erasmus, Alan Solomons etc. If I were in charge of the Bulls, I’d be begging Heyneke to come back. We may have lost one game to Japan under Heyneke, but he had us near level with New Zealand at the time – we’re a million light years away from them now! Time to privatise SA Rugby – let’s get rid of the amateur era administration and really embrace professionalism. How many players and coaches have to leave before we wake up?

    • Elsie Nieuwoudt

      I agree wholeheartedly!!

  • Max

    Now let Nollis learns from this lost and give him the opportunity to improve as a coach and later on his team will also improve.. But then we need to do the same with the Springboks. If everyone gets behind the coaches and players and even the management and give them the opportunity to improve we will start not now but in the near future the rise of all the SA teams. Its only to go forward. The All Blacks is a proven fact and their success didn’t happen overnight as a matter of fact it took them 24 heartbroken years. So who are we to expect this from SA Rugby who misfires on every levels.

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