By Wynne Gray
The answer to the Springbok coaching issues was right under their nostrils.
But like much of the national backline play, SARU officials were static and unable to see past tradition and beyond the racial transformation directives in rugby.
Eddie Jones should have been the next Springbok coach.
He had moved to Cape Town to coach the Stormers in next year’s Super rugby series while SARU dithered about what to do with Heyneke Meyer in the wake of his World Cup problems and persistent inability to beat the All Blacks.
SARU must have had misgivings about persevering with Meyer for another four year term even with his success rate at almost 70 per cent. In the tests that counted and then in one which counted even more against Japan at the RWC, he and the team failed.
The Boks coaching tormentor Jones was back at work in South Africa, he had been there before as part of the Springboks group which won the 2007 RWC and knew how rugby worked across the other Sanzar nations and round the globe.
Jones would ratchet up everything about rugby in the republic with his ideas, deep knowledge of the game and second to none work ethic.
So while SARU twiddled their thumbs, wondering if they would jettison Meyer or he would jump on the bonfire first, England came calling.
Rugby: Heyneke Meyer stands down as Springboks coach
Rugby: Sad day for South African rugby – Hansen
They were in a similar plight – no domestic coaches with enough substance to take over from Stuart Lancaster and no one with the gumption to deal with some major issues in the game. But they did have the sense to put boss Ian Ritchie on a plane to South Africa to make Jones an offer he could not refuse.
Even then South Africa had a chance to use the situation to their advantage. If Meyer could see his exit “was in the best interests of South African rugby” then others at SARU must have had the same insight.
They should have ensured Jones stayed with the Stormers in some supervising role as well as offering him the upgrade to the Springbok job. He was someone with massive rugby intelligence and a similar pool of ability to mould in South Africa.
Meyer was on shaky turf before the RWC and the manner of the Springboks 34-32 loss to Japan and semi-final defeat to the All Blacks should have confirmed his departure.
All his patriotic noises about “you can never win as coach of South Africa, but I just love coaching, I love my team, and I love my country,” were worthy rhetoric but did nothing to advance the Boks style.
Meyer coached the Springboks in 50 matches, winning 34 and drawing two and SARU will now come under greater pressure to pick a coach who will adhere to the country’s racial transformation. There is huge pressure for the Boks to mirror the nation’s demographics which shows an almost 80 per cent black population.
“The resignation of Mr. Meyer should not distract us on what we seek to achieve, rather it should serve as another opportunity to enhance our efforts of sport transformation,” sports minister Fikile Mbalula said.
“SARU agreed and committed to transformation; it’s a prerequisite then that whoever comes in as a new coach of the Springboks is conscious to our transformation needs, and will meet our objectives as outlined in the Transformation Agreement before the next Rugby World Cup.”