Alan Solomons chats to Sport24

Alan Solomons (Getty Images)
Alan Solomons (Getty Images)
Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, World XV assistant coach ALAN SOLOMONS talks Super Rugby favourites, addresses the need for a global season and looks ahead to the clash with the Springboks at Newlands on Saturday...

Sport24 asked: Since signing off at the Kings, describe the experience of coaching Edinburgh.

Alan Solomons: I have very much enjoyed my time at Edinburgh thus far. However, it’s been a really tough challenge. When the 2013 Super Rugby season finished, I only arrived in Scotland at the start of the competitive season so the consequence was that I took no part in pre-season or recruitment of the squad. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, I believe we have made a positive start to the job – running Leinster close and enjoying our best finish in the RaboDirect Pro12 in four years.

Sport24 asked: You formed a formidable partnership with Nick Mallett during your tenure with the
Springboks. How does it feel to once again be coaching alongside him at the highest level?

Alan Solomons: I obviously haven’t had the opportunity to work with Nick for a while – we last coached together for the Barbarians against the Springboks in 2010 (The Barbarians won 26-20). This week has been fantastic, it’s great to collaborate with Nick again and plot from a strategic viewpoint. Owing to the short turnaround, this week has been more about organisation and less about coaching. With just two on-field practice sessions, and a relatively short space of time to prepare the team, it’s crucial to keep things as simple as possible. We will appeal to the players’ professionalism.

Sport24 asked: Heyneke Meyer has defined both you and Nick Mallett as his mentors. Describe your experience of working with Heyneke in the past and his development as a coach.

Alan Solomons: I believe Heyneke has always been a good coach. I first came into contact with him in 1999, when I brought him in as Stormers assistant coach – previously he was coaching the SWD Eagles. He is a student of the game, is well-organised, plans meticulously and has a good grasp of the general principles of the oval game. It was always clear in my mind that he would go places as a coach. He fully deserved to get the Springbok job and I believe he has made a really good fist of it.

Sport24 asked: After a strong showing in 2013, is there a danger that the Springboks could experience the third-year syndrome?

Alan Solomons: No, I don’t think so. Heyneke is too well-disciplined and too focused to allow the Springboks to stray. I believe the Boks will be very focused with the 2015 World Cup on the horizon. Players will want to cement their places for that tournament and as a consequence, I’m of the view that the Boks will continue to build and they will certainly be one of the main contenders for the William Webb Ellis trophy. I see South Africa, New Zealand and England as the three big challengers.

Sport24 asked: At the end of the current season, there will be 49 Springboks playing abroad as opposed to 48 remaining in South Africa. Your thoughts on the changing face of the oval game?

Alan Solomons: I would hope that we reach a point where a global season comes into effect. I believe we would land up playing less rugby and the way I would structure it is by not playing over the months of December to the end of February – it’s too cold in the northern hemisphere and too hot in the southern hemisphere. One could break it up into three distinct phases: domestic rugby such as the Currie Cup and Top 14 competition, cross border rugby which is Super Rugby and the Heineken Cup, for example, and finally your Test rugby. If that plan was implemented, I believe it would certainly be better. Whether the movement of players abroad would hasten, I’m not sure. The movement of players comes about owing to the lure of a different lifestyle and foreign currency.

Sport24 asked: With the Bulls losing to the Lions this past weekend, the Sharks appear South Africa’s only Super Rugby challenger this season. What have you made of Jake White’s men?

Alan Solomons: The Sharks are a tremendous team. They are a really well-balanced unit and are immensely powerful upfront. The Durban side’s victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch was certainly their most outstanding this season. They will definitely be in the playoffs and, along with the Crusaders and Waratahs, have every prospect of winning the competition come early August.

Sport24 asked: In terms of mindset, what are you expecting from the Springboks this Saturday?

Alan Solomons: Heyneke has made it clear that the Boks will approach the game in Test match fashion and rightly so as it serves as a precursor to the June Tests and the Rugby Championship. The Boks are a powerful outfit and I don’t expect them to deviate far from the traditional way they play. There are some dangerous game-breakers in our side, but at the same time, the Boks boast a strong defensive system under the guidance of John McFarland. It promises to be a very tough encounter.


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