5 reasons the Boks need a foreign coach

Date published: December 10 2015

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The search for a new Springbok coach has begun. Is it time for foreign candidates to step to the front of the queue?

Despite having one of the best track records of any Bok coach during the professional era, Heyneke Meyer's resignation was widely welcomed.

Meyer's winning record of 67 percent was behind only Kitch Christie (100 percent) and Nick Mallett (71 percent), yet the common consensus is that the Springboks took a step backwards in the latter part of his tenure.

The South Africa Rugby Union insist that the search for Meyer's replacement will be a transparent, lengthy process. 

Here are five reason why foreign candidates should be included in the search for the first time:

1. Transformation credibility
President Oregan Hoskins says that the racial transformation of the Springbok team will be the new coach's "top priority." Any South African coach is likely to be confronted by a no-win situation where he faces unfair questioning over the legitimacy of his selections. 

Another white Afrikaner will find it impossible to avoid the 'racist' label while any non-white coach will be unable to avoid the 'quota' tag being added to his own appointment and his selection decisions. 

Only an outsider can offer the neutrality required for his choices to be judged on merit alone.

2. A style evolution is needed
Meyer's biggest failure was his failure to evolve the Springboks' style beyond their traditional strengths of the pack, set piece and kick-chase. The 2015 Rugby World Cup has underlined how the game has moved beyond those tactics with teams playing with a more attacking approach – like New Zealand, Australia and Argentina – enjoying success. 

Allister Coetzee is the hot local favourite for the job having been part of Jake White's 2007 World Cup-winning staff before winning three SA conference titles at the helm of the Stormers along with two Currie Cup winner's medals with Western Province. 

However Coetzee's critics will highlight how his defence-based approach saw the Stormers struggle to score bonus points and lose four out of five play-off matches during his tenure.

Such was the need for fresh ideas when Coetzee left that the bosses in Cape Town looked exclusively at foreign coaches, since none of the locals using a 'South African style' were deemed to have both the experience and the tactical vision required for the role.

3. Lack of local experience
Beyond Coetzee, coaches with significant Super Rugby experience are few and far between. Former coach Nick Mallett is a rare in that he has experience at both as Bok coach and internationally, but he is known to not be interested in the job. 

While the Lions showed the kind of attacking flair fans yearn for en-route to winning the Currie Cup, their coach, Johan Ackermann, is deemed by most to lack the high-level experience required to South Africa's top job. Former Bulls boss Frans Ludeke has two Super Rugby titles to his name, but his conservative style saw him forced to leave Loftus Versfeld before the end of his contract.

4. Provincialism
Rivalry between South Africa's provinces has long been the scourge of the national side, with player cliques and accusations of bias leveled against the coach common place. 

Meyer was often – somewhat unfairly – criticised for his perceived preference for Bulls players. Any coach with an attachment to one of the bug unions is sure to face similar difficulties.

5. Fresh perspective
The four factors above point to the need for a new, fresh vision for South African rugby. A new broom sweeps clean they say, and any coach appointed from within South Africa's structures will arrive with personal baggage. 

South Africa's unique political climate brings with it special challenges but only someone with a clean slate will be able to operate free from preconceived ideas, personal loyalties and attachments to the past. 

By Ross Hastie

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