Bok coach: Big Mitchell nod

2011-10-12 11:01

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – If a Sport24 poll is any yardstick, the South African public is surprisingly open to the idea of an overseas-reared coach taking over the Springbok reins.

We asked readers this week, in the light of incumbent Peter de Villiers’s strong signals that he is going to quit or be replaced following the Rugby World Cup 2011 quarter-final exit, “who would you like to see coach the team at the 2015 World Cup in England?”

More than 2 500 responded, with the presently “background” guru Heyneke Meyer, a big favourite in the vicinity of Loftus where he is the Bulls’ coaching executive, topping the pops with 19% of support.

That is despite Victor Matfield, one of the stalwart Springboks stepping down from Test rugby now, saying this week that Meyer “won’t apply” for the Bok coaching role.

Clearly many domestic fans, nevertheless, retain hope his arm might be twisted – the Nelspruit-born guru has plenty of experience but also remains refreshingly “young” in coaching terms at 44.

Meyer was closely followed on 18% of backing each for Rassie Erasmus, another largely behind-the-scenes character at Western Province/the Stormers, and the current Lions head coach John Mitchell.

New Zealander Mitchell, a former All Blacks head coach and also of the Western Force in Australia, has steered the Lions, for so long a largely “doldrums” province, to top-placed finish after the round-robin phase of this year’s Currie Cup.

Again, Matfield appeared to pour cold water on such public enthusiasm by saying that the country “isn’t ready” for a foreign coach, but doubtless a strong lobby in Johannesburg and elsewhere feels firmly otherwise.

Next up among Sport24 readers’ favourites are Allister Coetzee (13%), the Western Province coach trying desperately to end a trophy drought at Newlands, then Jake White (12%), the man who engineered the Boks’ 2007 World Cup success but is contracted to the Brumbies in Super Rugby for next season.

Then there is a drop to 5% for Australian Eddie Jones, who was at White’s side in the 2007 triumph, and 4% each for Nick Mallett, who has held the Bok post before, and ex-Saracens mastermind Brendan Venter.

There are no more than crumbs of enthusiasm for personalities like John Plumtree, Chester Williams, Dick Muir, Naka Drotske, Gert Smal, Frans Ludeke and Paul Treu.

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