110-cap Springbok, Victor Matfield is on the campaign trail and he’s just full to the brim with pearls of wisdom. First Big Vic spoke about the absolute faith he had in our local coaches and that ANY international intervention on this front would be a waste of time. Then the bearded bookseller came out firing against the “robots” in SA Rugby – those players who follow blindly and never ask or understand WHY!
In my honest opinion, what the ex-Bulls player is saying is layered with merit and I’m sure quite a few people would agree with this. What boggles the mind is how neatly he, the Bulls brains trust of the last decade and (for that matter) the whole Springbok squad danced around these types of issues when he was still plying his trade on grass as opposed to behind a table in the foyer of Exclusive Books. The issue of “robot-like” behavior is particularly close to Matfield’s heart as it has been a trademark of Bulls rugby from the days of Naas Botha. The ex-Springbok vice-captain cleverly disguises his old franchise’s ask-no-questions-hear-no-lies tactics as carefully thought-up structures that in no way resemble a programmed android. Furthermore, Peter de Villiers jumped onto this ideology as well and blindly instructed his troops to do whatever it is he felt was the trend at the time. I’m sure Matfield, Smit, Burger and du Preez will argue that they were consulted before the three Stooges (PDivvy, Muir and Gold) charged-off into a course set for disaster and stupidity, but I’m pretty sure they followed without asking – ala Robocop himself.
Where I do whole-heatedly agree with the undisputed line-out king, is on the matter of how unnecessary it would be to look abroad for a national coach. We have the analytical minds in this country to place our beloved Boks back on the long-forgotten pinnacle last experienced in 1997-1998 and September of 2007. There are gentleman who hold South African passports and still manage to look at game plans and defensive structures in such a way that the one does not overshadow the other. The Rainbow Republic has sons who have earned the respect from their players as well as their peers and who would be able to do the job blindfolded – on second thought, maybe not blindfolded though, we just had such a guy and it was an epic fail to say the least! However, I think the readers get my drift and understand that local coaching talent is abundant.
The aspect that Big Vic fails to recognize and that which every rugby-man earning his keep within the domestic structures of South Africa know all too well, is that the coach of the Springboks has a hotter seat than the president of the country. Unlike JZ, everybody and their cousin tell the Bok coach what to do and when to do it. Nobody I’ve read about, spoken to or heard of has this many “advisors” and “interested parties”. The best suited for the quest for World Rugby Dominance (in my humble opinion) is Heyneke Meyer, but he’s been messed around so often that he has publicly distanced himself from the fray. Allister Coetzee is certainly next in line as he’s been holding his own of late in Super Rugby terms, but he too is wary of the undue pressures that accompany the Bok top job.
So there you have it folks, South Africa has yet again proven its unparalleled ability to make unwanted history. We have the proudest rugby nation in the world, the most passionate followers alive, a talent pool of players any country would kill for and yet the vacancy that should be the most sought-after will remain empty until such time as a SURFU-appointed and approved clown with as little self respect as talent comes along to squarely push us back into rugby obscurity. I for one cannot wait.