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Stephen Nell | Columnist Index
Stephen Nell is a rugby writer based in Cape Town and works primarily for the Die Burger newspaper. He has been contributing to ESPNscrum since 2005.
SA Rugby close in on new coach
Stephen Nell
January 7, 2008

"Heyneke Meyer, who led the Bulls to success in the Super14 last year, is the marginal favourite and will be the first candidate to be interviewed in Cape Town." Stephen Nell reports on the race to become the new Boks coach

The search for the new Springbok started in earnest on Monday.

Heyneke Meyer, who led the Bulls to success in the Super14 last year, is the marginal favourite and will be the first candidate to be interviewed in Cape Town.

Emerging Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, Springbok assistant Allister Coetzee and former South African test wing Chester Williams complete the list of candidates.

Outgoing coach Jake White voiced his support for Coetzee, but that is likely to have little effect on the outcome. White, in spite of South Africa's World Cup win, has few friends among SA Rugby's decision-makers.

Having guided the Bulls to a Super14 triumph, Meyer is the favourite on his merits. He has previously been an assistant at Springbok level and also has immense support among key leadership figures in the squad, with players such as Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana all coming from under his wing.

Meyer might have been the Bok coach in 2004 had he not withdrawn from the race bck then.

De Villiers is also a good candidate having guided the Emerging Boks to victory in last year's IRB Nations Cup. He has also achieved success with South Africa's under-21 team.

On top of that there is a political debate in South Africa, which is about the possible benefits of having a black national coach.

De Villiers stands very strong inside that dynamic.

As absurd as that might sound to anybody living outside South Africa, a black Springbok coach could provide tangible benefits for the country's rugby administration.

It would be a massive statement for transformation, while it would also mean the political pressures on the national coach subside. How, for example could anybody in South Africa question the racial make-up of a side selected by a black coach?

Coetzee and Williams are also black candidates, but there are factors that militate against them being appointed.

Coetzee's association with White, believe it or not, won't be good for him. On top of that he appeared to be marginalised when White invited former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones to be part of the Bok set-up.

The biggest factor in his favour is the argument for continuity. Why fix what doesn't appear to be broken and not build on the White era?

Williams, for his part, simply does not have an impressive enough coaching pedigree. He has enjoyed moderate success with the Springbok sevens side, but is yet to convince as a Super14 or provincial coach.

While Williams was a decorated player, that is no guarantee of coaching success.

The interviews are to be conducted on Monday and Tuesday, with a recommendation to be made to the Presidents Council of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) on Wednesday. The announced could be expected any time from then.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins has said that he would like the announcement to be made as soon as possible, but nothing is ever straightforward in South African rugby. It's going to be an interesting week.

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