Graeme Smith defends Mark Boucher appointment: 'The team needed a strong leader'

Mark Boucher (Gallo)
Mark Boucher (Gallo)
  • CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith does not feel that qualification certificates are the "be-all and end-all" in determining the ability of an international coach.
  • Smith has again defended his decision to appoint Mark Boucher as national head coach in December.
  • Boucher is contracted as the national coach until the 2023 World Cup.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket (DOC) Graeme Smith has again defended his decision to appoint Mark Boucher as head coach of the Proteas.

In December 2019, shortly after Smith was named interim DOC, Boucher was unveiled as head coach of the national side less than two weeks out from the four-Test visit from England.

He was handed a contract until the end of the 2023 World Cup.

Boucher's credentials included that he enjoyed a successful period as coach of the Titans, but it did not prevent his qualifications – he possesses a Level 2 coaching certificate – being brought to the fore.

Current Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince, for example, has upskilled and currently possesses a Level 3 coaching certificate.

On Saturday, Smith – now the permanent DOC serving a two-year deal – spoke out in a wide-ranging press conference, where he addressed what he considered to be unfair suggestions in the media that there were irregularities in both his appointment as DOC and that of Boucher as head coach.

CSA president Chris Nenzani has also come out in defence of those appointments, saying both were approved by the board.

While Smith said he understood the perception that, under his leadership, high-profile jobs had been "given to mates", he said a balanced approach was required to discuss these issues. He further suggested that "internal agendas" have been at play within the senior structures of CSA that have sought to discredit him and the organisation.

Nenzani, too, has confirmed that the issue of confidential media leaks coming from within CSA has long been problematic.

When asked whether or not Boucher's Level 2 qualification was contentious, Smith sought to further explain his decision to appoint Boucher in December.

"It's a difficult one to answer and I think my opinion on that is what I stated in December. I felt that the team needed a strong leader," Smith said.

"I think Mark has done enough coaching at domestic level and he has had a lot of success. I feel that his personality and international experience is what was required at the time.

"In partnering with Enoch [Nkwe, assistant coach], I feel that the two of them can form a really strong partnership going forward. I feel that was an important dynamic that needed to be respected and thought of at the time.

"I feel that Mark and Enoch are the right team to take South African cricket forward.

"We've also got to respect the organisation and things need to be done, but do I think it's [coaching certificates] the be-all and end-all of an international coach? No."

Nkwe had operated as the interim team director for South Africa's tour of India earlier in 2019, but he has since been given a permanent coaching role as Boucher's assistant.

The appointments of Jacques Kallis as the side's batting consultant and Paul Harris as a spin bowling consultant for the England series have also been raised with Smith, who confirmed that both appointments were short-term.

Harris, Smith said, was appointed at the request of spinner Keshav Maharaj while Kallis has not been on the CSA payroll for months.

"I can understand where people are coming from, but I think this narrative of a clique taking over is really unfair," Smith said.

"If you are asking me whether Jacques Kallis was one of the best batting coaches and batting cricketers we've ever had, I'd tell you yes. 

"Do I feel he has a role to play in South African cricket? Jeez, it would be stupid of us not to involve our most successful cricketer, and the batting experiences he could bring to our young batters."

Smith also pointed to other appointments he had made.

"I made a number of appointments in December, not only Mark Boucher. I brought in permanent staff like the team manager Volvo (Masubelele), Justin Ontong, Charl Langeveldt, Enoch Nkwe and the medical staff," he said.

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