My great mate Mike Greenaway who writes for the Independent Group does not mess about with this piece that appeared in the Natal Mercury last week



As a rule of thumb, when an incoming coach takes over an established team, Year Three is when his pedigree is confirmed or, alternatively, he is found out to be an imposter.

So it is with Peter de Villiers and his coaching staff now that the impetus of the 2007 Rugby World Cup victory has finally run out and the intellectual capital of those in charge of a just about unbeatable team has been found out to be seriously deficient.

I recall former Wallabies coach (and Springbok technical assistant) Eddie Jones postulating some time ago that a new coach coming into a professional team can do little in his first year in charge, when at most he can change roughly 20 percent of what is going on – including changes in personnel; in his second year he can do the same again (now adding up to about a 40 percent shift), but the third year is when the “new” coach is supposed to accelerate the team to a new level.

Well dear old Eddie has had his yarns over the years, many to suit his situation at any given time, but in this case I reckon he has it just about spot on.

Peter de Villier is in his third year and the Boks have gone horribly backwards.

The Springboks, sadly, were completely out-witted by the All Blacks and then the Wallabies in a regression to the bad old days of the post-isolation era when the ill-disciplined, dinosaur Boks were laughingly out-thought and outplayed by the Antipodeans.

At the cutting edge of Test match rugby, the bottom line is this: you cannot afford to have a coaching staff that is reactive as opposed to pro-active.

Graham Henry and his annoying assistants, as well as Wallabies boss Robbie Deans, early in the Super 14 foresaw how the Tri-Nations game would pan out, did their homework and their teams hit the ground running. The hi-octane game of both teams left the Boks floundering and, going forward, not learning any lessons as the imbalanced selection of the loose trio for the Brisbane game proved.

What were our Springbok coaches doing from February through to May?! Dick Muir was coaching the Lions to the worst ever showing in the history of Super rugby, but what about De Villiers and Gary Gold?

Worryingly, it has been undoubtedly proved that the Springboks were ill-prepared for the Tri-Nations, and the happy-go-lucky, wise-cracking conspiracy theorist of a coach has been found out.

It is well known that De Villiers has invested in “coaching by committee”, whereby the senior players and the three coaches meet early each week and democratically choose on a way forward for the particular match in front of them, and that is fine when the team is winning and the senior players are all in form, but what do you do when the team starts losing and those calling the shots are not performing?

The reality is that participative management can only go so far in professional team sport. For one thing, rugby evolves at such a hectic pace these days that the players at the coal face cannot be held responsible for seeing the wider perspective from a planning and coaching perspective – they have enough on their plate – and the coaching staff should have the intuition to see how the game is unfolding and accordingly plot a strategy.

Peter de Villiers has been shown up to be out of his depth in that he could not foresee how the professional game has evolved. Henry did, so did Deans, but our bloke headed for the Dunces’ Corner.

So where to from here? Very simply put, the likes of John Smit, Victor Matfield and company have to step out of their players’ jumpers, put on coaches caps and do the intellectual hard yards that their coaches proved unable to do.


About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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