Peter Robinson

Stick with Jet

2005-03-22 13:01

Twenty minutes into Saturday night's match, just around the time the Sharks gave up a fourth try and a bonus point to the Highlanders, my thoughts turned to beleaguered coach Kevin Putt.

Under fire from all quarters following his team's miserable start to the season, Putt's tenure as a Super 12 coach can now be measured in weeks rather than months. We know Putt will lose his job, we just don't know when.

Of course, there's no guarantee that getting rid of Putt will suddenly turn the fortunes of the Sharks around. The rot set in some years ago, and the effects of the gradual erosion of quality and confidence are only now being seen. It ridiculous to lay the blame for all the Sharks' ills at Putt's door, but he's the one who's going to carry the can. In simple terms. It's a lot easier and cheaper to get rid of a coach than an entire squad.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Ray Jennings. Last week it was put about that a number of players in the South African squad weren't happy with Jennings' coaching methods and didn't want him reappointed after the West Indies tour. According to reports, the aggrieved players had drawn up a memorandum to this effect.

It was never made clear who made up this clique of aggrieved players, but in the absence of a denial from anyone important at Cricket South Africa, it must be assumed that there is something in the story.

Which makes you sit and wonder. Jennings may not be everyone's cup of tea. His methods are unorthodox, his personality abrasive, but you'd have to have a particularly blinkered view of the man to deny that there have been signs of improvement in the cricket played by South Africa over the past few months.

More disruption

More importantly, though, the last thing the South African team needs now is more disruption. The squad chosen to tour the West Indies has met with general approval.

Even some of the side's harshest critics have found little in the composition of the squad to complain about, largely, I'd venture, because there is logic and consistency in its selection.

Perhaps some players in the squad feel that Jennings hasn't given them a fair shake of the stick. Perhaps some simply don't like him. Whatever the case, it's time a simple truth was made clear to them: you don't always get to pick your boss.

The best argument for keeping Jennings on in the job after South Africa have played the West Indies second or third XI is that both he and the players will have a better idea of what to expect from each other after the tour.

All good team have one thing in common and that's continuity. With Australia looming at the end of the year what South Africa needs most right now is stability and the chance for the team, and the coach, to grow together.

Personally, I can think of a couple of people who, I feel, could do a decent job of coaching South Africa, among them Graham Ford, who's been there and done it, and John Wright, the New Zealander who's shown India how to play effective Test cricket.

But I don't think that now is the time to make a change. Put another way, switching coaches at this moment could be a recipe for disaster when it comes to playing Australia.

Send your comments to Peter or discuss this column now in our debating forum.

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