With the playing curtain down on what has been probably, in the overall, a marginally disappointing 2011 season, rugby interest will turn to off-field matters now - one of them being the appointment of a new Springbok coach.
Player movements and transfers, the constant assault on the Currie Cup, the big budget Kings in Super Rugby in 2013 - despite regular hammerings from Boland will be discussed, but nothing is going to take rugby's headlines as much as the already burgeoning debate over the next Bok mentor.
Of course, whilst the above is in reference to bar-room discussions between fans, the Presidents' Forum, a non-constitutional meeting of the country's leading officials, took place in Johannesburg on Friday; so it's certainly a topic on everyone's lips - both officially and non-officially.
On that note, and having given it a go before, we would like to chip in with our final coaching shortlist - a five-man list of potential Bok coaches and a list which excludes Peter de Villiers, despite him saying that he would like another crack at the job.
Before we do that, it is worth reflecting that possibly whilst the coaching job takes the headlines, just as vigorous a debate needs to be held over the next Springbok captain, for he will have a massive influence on the fortunes of the national team.
In both our World Cup wins the captains had been in place for at least three years and were closely aligned with their coaches, Francois Pienaar and Kitch Christie in 1995 and John Smit and Jake White in 2007.
But for now let's look at the coach and our final list of candidates:
(In alphabetical order)
(1) ALLISTER COETZEE:
A strong man in his own right, with strong political connections back to his Eastern Cape days, Coetzee has been at the helm of a resurgent Western Province and Stormers team over the past two years. By all accounts a nice, good man with a good work ethic and a solid technical base, his shares probably went, somewhat unfairly, from being a runaway favourite before the Lions semifinal to now being a neck and neck candidate. He has coached at international level, is obviously politically acceptable and generally liked by his players, and would be a far, far safer and far more capable pair of hands than his predecessor. Still the hot favourite one would have to say.
Drawbacks? Some may query his lack of silverware and whether he is not perhaps best suited to an assistant's role, as he did with White. But then again has been a successful head coach at WP - despite having no silverware to show for his efforts.
(2) RASSIE ERASMUS:
A world-leading technical mind and there is no doubt that as well as his freakish success with the limited Free State Cheetahs, Erasmus has turned around rugby in the Western Province putting together their most convincing sustained period of results since the mid-80s. To say that Erasmus is not up to dealing with pressure is not accurate - to navigate the political waters of a union like WP takes strength and an astute mind, and his man-management skills are better than he gets credit for. He is known for his limitless work-ethic, his desire to win and a freakish understanding of the game as well as the ability to innovate.
Drawbacks? Will Erasmus want to handle the spotlight and noise that comes with this job. Will this distract him from performing his ultimate strength which is planning how to beat teams and win cups? But is he not too good to leave out the mix?
(3) GARY GOLD:
Possibly overlooked in recent speculation, but the gold could be right under our noses. Gold, like Erasmus, is known for his sharp analytical mind and an industrious approach to coaching. He had success with London Irish before coaching Western Province and the Stormers, with Erasmus. He is known to be respected and popular amongst the players - and in rugby circles - and has a very canny knowledge of international rugby. Gold's biggest asset is probably the fact that he has four years with the Boks so knows exactly the lie of the land and is probably the biggest way to ensure continuity. Moreover, his work with the Bok scrum in RWC was exceptional.
Drawbacks? Maybe just be that he is, unfairly, tainted with the last regime. But he will then know best how to correct these flaws.
(4) JOHN PLUMTREE:
The well-liked ‘Plum' has won trophies in South Africa and has ensured that the Sharks are always competitive. He is a fantastic coach of the breakdown and has an excellent understanding of the way modern rugby should be played with the ball-in-hand approach being favoured by the top teams being something entire comfortable for Plumtree. The players enjoy him and he mixes an approachable approach with a no-nonsense steel. The Currie Cup Final would have seen his share-price tumble a bit but that is short-sighted. Sure, some may argue against a foreign coach but given that Plum played for Natal and has been on the local scene for many years, that concern in Plum's case would be churlish. He would do a good job, full-stop.
Drawbacks? His record may not be where it should be given the players at his disposal and the query over the fact that the Sharks, despite their big budget, cannot get their backs right, in terms of personnel.
(5) JOHN MITCHELL:
OK, he is flavour of the month but like with Coetzee and Plumtree, we must be careful not to let swallows make summers. Mitchell has told this website that he does not want the job and there is talk that the players would have strong reservations about him as it is - but would he say no if given the job on his own terms; i.e. having the final say on selection and choosing his own management team? In his case, too, the foreign coach objections would be shriller than ever and there is a case for this. Moreover, South Africa culturally is extremely complex as is dealing with big marquee Boks, which is something Mitchell has not had to do at the Lions. There are more than enough capable coaches in SA if you consider this list excludes the next tier likes of Ludeke, Theron, Meyer, Drotské, Eloff, Solomons, Stonehouse, but Mitchell is a strong disciplinarian with, like Plumtree, an excellent understanding of the breakdown and modern rugby. He has done a miracle with the Lions and shown exceptional perseverance, and thus strength of character which is essential to the Bok job.
Drawbacks? He is foreign (not a problem in principle, but in practise) and his ability to manage the big Boks and political environment would be questionable.
* The longer shots would be Eddie Jones but he would be too removed from South African rugby and Paul Treu but he has yet to coach fifteens and this job is so different as a sport and from the sevens circuit. Treu's time is not yet.
* Do you agree with our Top Five shortlist? Let us know below!
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