South African rugby is being urged to continue its chase for a Kiwi coach for the Springboks even if Dave Rennie knocks them back.
An exasperated South African media is reporting Rennie is unlikely to take any offer from SA Rugby to replace beleaguered Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Rennie seems set to stick with his plan to coach Glasgow in Scotland after he finishes with the Chiefs at the end of the next Super Rugby season.
If that happens, senior media figures in the republic are urging administrators to look at other New Zealand candidates including Hurricanes assistant John Plumtree and former All Blacks coach John Mitchell.
South Africa has had a disastrous year under Coetzee, losing eight out of 12 Tests, including a first home defeat to Ireland, first away losses to Argentina and Italy and a record 57-15 loss to the All Blacks in Durban.
“Coetzee has to go – and he has to go now, no matter how much it costs SA Rugby to pay out the remaining three years of his contract – but who should replace him?” wrote senior sports editor Simon Borchardt from kwesesports.com, a leading South African sports site.
Borchardt believes Lions Super Rugby coach Johan Ackermann is the best local option but needs to be given more time to develop as a coach rather than be handed the Boks role now.
“I’d like to see Ackermann left with the Lions for another three seasons and allowed to develop as a coach, with SA Rugby making a bold statement by selecting the first foreign Springbok coach, a New Zealander, to take the team to the 2019 World Cup in Japan,” he told his readers.
“New Zealand not only produces the world’s best rugby players, it produces the best coaches too. You only have to look at the top Test teams to see the kind of impact they can make at this level.”
Borchardt listed the achievements of Warren Gatland with Wales and the British and Irish Lions, Joe Schmidt with Ireland and Vern Cotter with Scotland and noted Japan had signed Jamie Joseph, before advocating SA Rugby set its sights on Plumtree and Mitchell.
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“Plumtree was an All Blacks triallist before moving to Natal in the late 1980s,” Borchardt pointed out. “He played 80 matches for them, and was part of Currie Cup-winning teams in 1990 and 1996. He also represented the SA Sevens team in two tournaments in 1994.
“Plumtree was head coach of the Sharks for five years, winning the Currie Cup in 2008, their first title since 1996, and taking them to a Super Rugby final in 2012. Plumtree lost his job when John Smit became CEO, and the former Bok captain recently admitted that he made a big mistake by getting rid of him. As a forwards coach, Plumtree went on to win Six Nations and Super Rugby titles with Ireland and the Hurricanes respectively in 2014 and 2016, and has been earmarked as a future All Blacks head coach.
“Like Plumtree, Mitchell has experience of coaching in South Africa. In 2011, he led the Lions to Currie Cup glory, their first title since 1999, before leaving the Lions in 2012 after a group of players complained about his management style. Mitchell, though, was cleared of all charges, and was Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal’s preferred candidate for the vacant Stormers head coach job this year.
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“That appointment was scuppered by WP president Thelo Wakefield, who was told by the Lions not to hire Mitchell, with the Kiwi then accepting the job of USA head coach.”
Borchardt believe Rennie, Plumtree or Mitchell “have the ability to turn the Springboks around, from a results and playing point of view”.
“But it’s Plumtree and Mitchell who have coached in South Africa before, which should put them ahead of Rennie in the pecking order. They know exactly how South African rugby operates and crucially, the importance of transformation and giving players of colour opportunities at Test level.”
“The Boks have never had a foreign coach before, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Ask the English Rugby Football Union, which after England’s 2015 World Cup pool-stage exit on home soil appointed its first foreign coach in Australian Eddie Jones.
“This year, England won all 13 of their matches and are now ranked No 2 in the world.
“The Springboks, who have dropped to No 6, can enjoy a similar revival in 2017 if SA Rugby gets a coach like Plumtree, Mitchell or Rennie.”
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