With Franco Smith reportedly set to accept an offer to join Italy, the AOR team debates who should take over as Cheetahs head coach.
The obvious answer is current Maties coach Hawies Fourie, who has not only coached in Bloem before (he was the backline coach under Naka Drotske between 2007 and 2013), but also made public his desire for the job.
He has more than earned his stripes since then, having coached in Kimberley before moving to Stellenbosch in late 2015 where he took the Maties to the Varsity Cup final in 2016 and 2017, before drinking from the trophy in 2018 and this year.
Prior to that, Fourie coached Boland, while also being seconded to the Stormers as the backline coach in 2006.
A match made in heaven!
However, is this not the perfect opportunity to challenge the comfortable status quo at a union that has underperformed given the resources like Grey College and Kovsies?
And the perfect opportunity to back a black coach who has also earned his stripes?
Give Jonathan Mokuena, the man who steered Pukke to their maiden Varsity Cup title in 2016, and who doubles as the Leopards coach in the Currie Cup First Division, a shot at the next level.
You would think that more black coaches would have been backed, yet a look through the Currie Cup coaching teams of the past five years confirms that plenty opportunities have been missed, with coaches then being lost to the system.
“The real challenge is to make sure the younger coaches who are promoted to fill the gaps are well prepared, have a proper grounding and are capable of rising to the occasion,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
An ideal opportunity for Roux and the national body to put their money where their mouth is and make sure that Mokuena gets not only the job, but the support needed to make him successful?
First off, there’s no point wringing our hands about who should replace Franco Smith if the Cheetahs are going to continue along their current course.
Franco was a great fit for the union because both are aligned in the way they think about rugby – it’s a game about scoring tries, not winning.
If that’s the goal, Free State could save a lot of time and money by just replacing Franco with whoever is currently managing Die Mystic Boer – the popular Bloemfontein watering hole.
But if the Cheetahs have rediscovered the purpose of the scoreboard and they’re tired of a trophy cabinet full of participation certificates, it’s time to rehire Kennedy Tsimba.
That’s right, the former Free State pivot was an assistant coach at Free State in 2011 before joining Rustenburg where he headed up the academy during the period that the Impalas twice won the Gold Cup in three successive finals.
He was 25 in 2000 when he stepped into the giant boots of Free State legend Jannie de Beer. Undaunted, Tsimba scored 300 of the team’s 762 points in the Currie Cup, matching a serious running game with the goal-kicking prowess of a flyhalf who hadn’t wasted a second of training time on catching and passing.
He scored 166 points in nine matches as the Cheetahs clinched the 2000 Vodacom Cup title.
In 2002, Tsimba was named Currie Cup Player of the Year after he broke De Beer’s Free State record by scoring 228 points to top the points-scorers list (a feat he matched in the Vodacom Cup).
Though plagued by injury after a switch to the Bulls in 2005, Tsimba made his comeback in 2008 where he helped the Griffons clinch the Currie Cup First Division title one year after finishing last in that competition.
Currently serving as the Director of Rugby at St Albans College in Pretoria, Tsimba has made it known he doesn’t rate the quality of the Pro 14, which is probably an indication he’ll win it in his first season. Tsimba is once again the man for the Cheetahs, if they’re serious about replacing tries with trophies.