Argentina - check. Australia - check. New Zealand - check. South Africa - nothing. Why is it that three of the four teams who make up the all-new Rugby Championship all have a coach ahead of 2012... yet South Africa does not?
France - considered to be notoriously disorganised - had a new coach before the 2011 Rugby World Cup even began. So did Italy.
Underfire England already have a new caretaker team in place, with South Africa's very own Nick Mallett - possibly with more South Africans in tow? - the clear favourite to take the post on a full-time basis in the middle of next year.
Simply put, a case of South African red should be winging its way to one B. Lawrence, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand in time for Sunday, December 25.
To thank him for shouldering the blame of a disastrous World Cup campaign, equal worst in history, whilst the good ship SARU spins merrily along.
But Lawrence's performance masks a litany of errors by the national body that, unfortunately continue - starting with the uncertainty over Peter de Villiers's successor.
It's more futile to talk about the past than the future but the failure to successfully address the Springbok coaching issue in 2010 and the first half in 2011 came back to bite the nation. These included the Springbok coaching staff (remember the blame of De Villiers's assistants rather than looking at the root of the problem?).
Others would be the continued reliance on player power - which came back to bite them as they overrode the Rassie Erasmus drop-goal plan for the quarterfinal, the increasingly bizarre selection of the beleaguered John Smit, as well as the other selection errors.
Why was Rassie Erasmus not used enough during the RWC?
One of the most severe was the use of technical consultant Erasmus who despite doing a lot of the work with the main squad did not have a say in selection. As dignified as De Villiers was in the World Cup, the lack of appreciation of technical expertise, as was the case since his appointment, was to cost the Boks dearly. It was an oversight or weakness by SARU that they never intervened more directly or with a firmer hand. Instead, they ended up with a management team made up of people all uncertain as to their roles and power.
But that is in the past but it threatens to get worst.
Take for example the handling of the appointment of the new Bok coach. January 27? Why on earth? It's not like the impending change in coach was a surprise or not known. The franchises have been pleading with SARU for six months to hasten the process for the sake of certainty. Succession planning is an imperative in any corporate stricture. France and Italy did theirs, to no ill effect, before the World Cup. New Zealand wrapped up by the middle of December in an angst and drama free process. But whilst SARU goes on holiday for a month we wait until the end of January.
The exception to the seamless transition is England, but they had an 'in contract' coach who stepped down unexpectedly. Besides, no one wants to be like England.
What this means, SARU's prevarication, is that whoever is appointed will have to do another competition as coach of another team before assuming the reins.
If Smal is the favourite... why wait until the end of January?
Gert Smal, if it is him as he seems oddly to have become favourite - through loose lips at SARU than any other reason - will have to complete a Six Nations as Ireland's forwards coach. Both Allister Coetzee and Heyneke Meyer, the other two on the rumoured three-man shortlist, as per the entirely fair insistence of the franchises, would have to complete 2012 Super Rugby duties before taking the Bok reins. Whether this means that they will pull off their Stormers or Bulls tracksuits for the England tour and then re-don them once England have left is not clear. The franchises appear to have said if you want to wait until January 27 then you can't have your cake and eat it (and in the process take our coaches). Unless, of course, the Bulls release Meyer given he is not a day to day on the practice field coach, officially that is.
The fact that Smal appears to be coach elect, when SARU officials have let it slip, and it is common talk in Ireland rugby circles (both officially and within the media), makes the January 27 appointment even odder. Why wait if you have decided? Everyone craves certainty - it's only fair to the franchises, the players and the affected coaches (including potential assistants). And only in the interests of decent planning for a monstrous 2012 season.
But to have your newly-appointed coach coaching another team when they should be poring over every game of SA teams in Super Rugby and England, having one on ones with his team, getting his head around his potential squad and all its medical, conditioning and mental issues and planning every detail of the England tour and the Rugby Championship. It's not going to happen, thanks to SARU's prevarication.
More problems with Springbok contracts
Likewise the fact that the Springbok contracts are in turmoil as uncertainty reigns with further talk that P Divvy has a mini-extension to address this in order to handover to his successor. (What about the rest of his coaching staff, however, are they now back in the job market?) That should be fascinating and one can only hope that the departing mentor has no say in the contracting of his successor's players. That would not be fair. However, currently senior Springboks have been heard moaning - loudly - about their contracts, or the lack thereof, with some even checking options abroad in the meantime. This, too, is concerning,
Further issues of SARU's inability to deal with matters is the failure to resolve the Kings issue which remains as clear as the bottom of the Vaal River, the Currie Cup confusion (who will be playing in the top six next year?!) and deflowering the position of Manager of National Teams or whatever it is called. Add too, the failure to get Erasmus involved, other than an emergency call every World Cup when it's well known that two or three of the world's top five national teams are currently interested in his services.
Of course we can read about our development in Women's Sevens and the new academies courtesy of the National Lottery (whose funds really ought to be going to our ailing NGO's), but that is spin. On the fundamentals, SARU is failing.
* Do you agree with us? Are SARU complicating things at present? Or are they on the right track?
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