CAPE TOWN – Former NWU-Pukke coach Jonathan Mokuena says there needs to be a clear system for coaches to be developed and to progress through the ranks in South Africa.
Mokuena, a former Springbok Sevens captain, made reference to the climb of some South African coaches, but also added that progression doesn’t always happen like that, and not for all coaches.
“The list of Varsity Cup-winning coaches who have gone on to coach at Super Rugby level and higher is long, and as much as someone has to pick you, your success should also open up doors for you,” the 2016 Varsity Cup-winning coach said.
“Your success should also be your selector, but sometimes, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.
With the vast majority of Varsity Cup coaches having gone on to coach at Super Rugby level or higher, Mokuena also spoke about the role unions have in ensuring that there is assistance for promising coaches and that they receive opportunities.
“As a coach, there needs to be consistency in getting somebody from where they are, to where they could be, to where they ought to be. There are a lot of role players because the unions run by themselves, and the focus shouldn’t be on SA Rugby bringing the coaches through, because these coaches are selected from the unions, that’s part of their set-up, and that’s where the lack is at the moment.
“In our system you see coaches be given a run at the highest level, now surely you cannot go and build experience at the highest level? You’ve got to cut your teeth as you go along in the system, which is not there, so that when you get to the highest level, you’re ready to perform.”
The former Lions flanker added that there needs to be clearer targets set by Super Rugby coaches, not only for accountability, but also to put clear goals in place to work towards.
“We did a show last year on SuperSport where we had a discussion with most of the Super Rugby coaches, and not one of them could tell us what their goals were, whether it was to win or end top four,” the SuperSport commentator said.
“Most of the answers were diplomatic and the fact that they didn’t state clear goals was a bit worrying to me. Of course if players leave or your senior group leaves you have to be realistic and understand that you might not be as successful as you could have been, but there needs to be goals, something should be achievable. Rassie was the only one to give a clear goal, his was to win the World Cup, and if he didn’t, he said he’d step down, and that I admire.”
Kevin Musikanth, another former Varsity Cup-winning mentor (UCT Ikeys, 2014), added to Mokuena’s sentiments on the path of coaches.
“Being a coach is much the same as a player – someone has to pick you which makes it very tough sometimes as you never know what’s next…” he said.
“A player is sometimes fortunate, because they could meet a coach who can elevate them and take them to a new level, but as coaches, we’re often masters of our own destiny. Very few coaches are fortunate enough meet somebody who sees their coaching potential, most of the time it is tenacity, drive and the will to stay in the game that will eventually lead a coach to the highest levels.”
Musikanth would know quite a bit about this, having nurtured players from school and and club level to the top – Huw Jones being an example of an Under-20 player who he spotted. Jones played two senior seasons under Musikanth, one at False Bay and then following his mentor to UCT, before graduating to the Stormers and later Scotland. Demetri Catrakilis’ progression through the ranks also started at the same point.
“There is no question that for coaches rugby is about results. Which means the pressure is constantly on. You have to have nerves of steal. When the team wins its the players and when they lose it is the coach.
“Being a head coach can be a lonely journey, you shouldn’t make excuses, blame a player or your assistant coaches and in a major competition only one of the head coaches ends up being the coach of the team that ends up victorious.”
Musikanth went on to reflect on the importance of success in competitions and how far reaching such results can be.
“There is no question that coaches that have aspiration also have to have the fortitude to keep on keeping on, whether it is losing a match then having the belief to hang in there and get your team to believe they can still win the championship.
“SA proved that in the World Cup and look what that meant to the country and, of course, the Crusaders are great examples of losing a few at the beginning and then going on to make the final of Super Rugby and win the match that counts, we can learn a lot from that.”
Musikanth, who has been coaching since 1999, maintains that how coaches respond to failure determines their seasonal outcomes.
“Everybody wants to win and very rarely do coaches and teams win all the time, it is when there is a setback that coaching skill really comes out to lift up your team, when as the coach, inside you feel like something has died but you have to be strong enough to not let anybody see that. That is why I have so much respect for Rassie Erasmus, as he managed to lift up the Springbok team after they lost their first match at the World Cup.”