Q&A: Nick Mallett

2006-10-23 13:37

Cape Town - Former Springbok coach, Nick Mallett, chats about his earliest rugby memories, his interests outside the game and whether or not he'd pick Luke Watson if still in charge.

1. Who is Nick Mallett?

About to turn 50... and probably getting to the end of my career.

2. Where were you born an educated?

I was born in Hertfordshire in England and educated in South Africa. My family immigrated to South Africa when I was six months old.

3. What is you earliest rugby memory?

I remember washing the laces of my boots before a game for Western Province Preparatory School. We were very proud of our boots running out as nine-year-olds.

4. When you grew up did you ever think that you would make a living out of rugby?

No, I don't think so. Not even when I was a player. Rugby only turned professional in 1995. That was right at the end of my career.

5. What is your best rugby memory?

I have been very lucky because I've had plenty, but I think winning the Tri-Nations was fantastic. Beating France by 52 points. Winning the Currie Cup for three consecutive years with Western Province. Being selected as a Springbok and captaining Oxford.

6. What was it like in France and was it difficult to adapt to the language and culture?

I love the French. They are a very passionate and emotional people who love their sport. I love their lifestyle. I lived in a little town called St. Claude for five years where I learnt their language and their culture. I feel as if France is very much a part of my background.

7. What do you regard as the highlight and biggest disappointment of your tenure as Springbok coach?

The highlight was the 16 consecutive Test wins and I think Carel (du Plessis) had one. Receiving the president's award for services to rugby as Springbok coach. I think I made a mistake by leaving Gary Teichmann behind for the 1999 World Cup. I would have liked to take him along for his leadership ability. And then I was obviously disappointed with the way it ended.

8. If there was something that you would have done differently what would it be?

I think the main one would be the Gary Teichmann issue. I felt pressurised and I wish I had been a bit more patient and taken my time about that decision.

9. There is perception that you are arrogant and stubborn. Do you think this is an accurate assessment of your personality?

I don't think so. I think people who get to know me understand that I do listen to others. I've got very good friends and close friends in rugby who wouldn't agree with that. I do have a strong personality. Maybe that's why people believe that I'm arrogant. I think sometimes as a coach you have to make difficult decisions and you have to justify those decisions, so maybe that is one of the reasons why people think I am stubborn.

10. What does your role as Western Province director of rugby entail and who is ultimately accountable for WP and the Stormers?

The position of director of rugby was put into place in February 2005. It encompasses all rugby in the Western Province starting from schools level. It was too wide a brief so I sat down with the board after the Stormers campaign and said that I believed that I should be strongly involved in the junior teams starting with the Under-19 and Under-21 teams and setting up an academy and institute in Western Province, which we have done as well as bringing rugby intellect into the country to understand our coaches which I am in the process of doing through Super 14 seminars.

11. Do you think the press, especially in Cape Town, treat you fairly?

I don't think they really understood what my role was. I think a lot of people wanted me to coach as they could then understand what my role was as they didn't understand what a director of rugby's role was. I tried explaining that it is not a coaching role but rather a 'getting Western Province right' type of role. This will have to be judged after three years. We are making progress with our Under-19's and we'll make progress with the Under-21's. Hopefully we will make progress with our Craven Week teams as well. The quality of our coaching at club rugby level is improving. I also think we are improving in the quality of people we are signing for Western Province.

12. There have been reports that you wanted to fire Kobus van der Merwe after the Stormers poor showing in the Super 14. Is this true?

I am not in a position to fire anyone. I just want to make that absolutely clear. The director of rugby is just one person (out of seven) that forms the rugby task committee. I provide rugby input to that committee and report back on various campaigns. That committee will then put a recommendation through to the board and the board will finally decide one way or another. I accept responsibility for confusion in the Super 14. Confusion in perhaps what the players expected from me and perhaps what Kobus expected from me. Our roles were not properly defined, but now that has been rectified. Kobus is responsible for coaching and selecting the team and there will be no confusion for the following campaign.

13. Who were the stand out players for you in this year's Currie Cup?

There were many young players who came through. Gio Aplon and Robbie Diack in Western Province made a really big impact for me. Luke Watson obviously with his captaincy of the WP side. Guys like Kankowski from Natal. Barritt also did very well in the Super 14. Ruan Pienaar has also played very well for them. The Bulls' Derick Kuun has been excellent, Fondse has played well at lock, Rassie has done a fantastic job with the talent that he had at his disposal at the Cheetahs, Richardt Strauss the hooker has been impressive and his two props has also been good. Plenty of youngsters have come through and I think we certainly have enough talent in the country.

14. If you were still the Springbok coach would you select Luke Watson?

I would select him. I believe that he is a very good openside flanker. With the injury to Schalk Burger he has definitely played himself into a position where he is the best in that position in South Africa.

15. Is there anything in SA Rugby that you could change, and why?

I'd change the number of professional rugby teams there are. I don't think we should be provincially based. Professional sport should not be based on provinces. It should be based on franchises and on the metropolitan areas. I don't think South African rugby can afford 14 unions. They can only afford six franchises and beyond that what we really need to do is to improve our club rugby and to put money into club rugby to provide more opportunities to play under good coaching conditions. That is something I would really like to see being put into place.

16. What interests do you have outside of rugby?

I love golf. I keep myself fit and do a lot of gym. I love travel and particularly enjoy France, which is of particular interest to me. I also enjoy the sea and the bush.

17. What is your favourite food / drink / movie / actor / actress / TV programme?

Seafood / red and white wine / action and love stories / Tom Hanks / Meryl Streep / any sport programme.

18. What car do you drive?

I drive a Toyota bakkie.

19. What music do you like?

I love my children's music like Black Eyed Peas and the surfer guy, Jack Johnson.

20. If there was one wish that you would want to see come true, what would it be and why?

For South Africa to be a less dangerous place from a crime point of view. That is all associated with jobs and opportunities. To try and improve the social situation for poor South Africans to make the country a safer place for us all.