While South African rugby and soccer fans have had little direction, apart from shoulder shrugging and finger wagging respectively from national team coaches Allister Coetzee and Shakes Mashaba, there are other coaches who left us with the impression our teams are in good hands. Simnikiwe Xabanisa looks at five of them.
Roger Barrow (Rowing)
After guiding five boats into the Rio Olympics finals and getting just one medal – Shaun Keeling and Matthew Brittain’s silver in the coxless pairs – Barrow supposedly said maybe it was time he moved on to make way for someone with new ideas to come and coach his teams. Perhaps the emotion of getting silver, a step down from the lightweight fours’ gold in 2012, got to Barrow. But even someone as thorough as he reputedly is missed one basic fact: five boats in finals as opposed to just the one four years ago, meant five opportunities to win medals – an obvious improvement in spite of the final outcome. Barrow’s exacting and unsparing nature is what makes him a great coach from which many can learn. Well, that and how he got a cash-strapped organisation to compete on equal footing with better-funded teams internationally. In the immediate aftermath of that medal-less day in Rio, Barrow described the day as his worst nightmare come true, but World Rowing saw enough in his work to make him coach of the year.
Pitso Mosimane (Soccer)
When the debate on who should succeed suspended Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba (who looks set for dismissal for being as thin-skinned as he is clueless as an international coach) Mosimane is only ever reluctantly mentioned as an option. This is despite the fact that he has won the league and cup double domestically and gone on to guide Mamelodi Sundowns to being only the second South African team to win the CAF Champions League this year. The main reasons he doesn’t seem universally liked are his habit of speaking his mind; name-dropping teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich when talking about his team; and generally never letting anyone forget when he does well, which he does with alarming regularity. But while many focus on confidence which borders on arrogance (but actually isn’t), they forget to look at the fact that he is an excellent coach who not only understands the perplexing psyche of SA players but also international football trends.
Ans Botha (Athletics)
At 75, Botha should be knitting all kinds of garish jerseys for her great-grandchildren. But here she is as world and Olympic champion and 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk’s coach, elbowing for room at the cutting edge of international sprint coaching. How Botha – who coached Frankie Fredericks when he was a schoolboy in Namibia – has remained relevant for the best part of five decades as a coach boggles the mind. It’s one thing to have a once in a lifetime athlete like Van Niekerk, but it still takes someone who knows what they’re doing to make him a world record holder. So relevant is Botha that one of her friends in the coaching industry is Glen Mills, who coaches a certain Usain Bolt …
Johan Ackermann (Rugby)
In a year in which SA rugby players were misrepresented as unfit blunt objects so petrified of the ball it may as well have been a ticking time bomb, Ackermann and his Lions proved everyone wrong with rugby that was irresistible at times. The result was the most tries in a Super Rugby competition, including the free-scoring New Zealand sides, and a place in the final. Many might point to the meek surrender in the final against a supreme Hurricanes side in testing conditions in Wellington as inexperienced coaching on Ackermann’s part. But if there was a role Ackermann needed to play this year it was to prove that SA players can be as skilful as anyone in the world – and he did.
Russell Domingo (Cricket)
Just over six months ago Domingo was being called a quota coach and many were mocking the fact that he’s never played first class cricket, let alone tests. These things were put up as the reasons he should have been fired as Proteas coach, his critics forgetting how he had revived cricket in the Eastern Cape and had turned the Warriors into winners in spite of his supposed lack of qualifications. With captain Faf du Plessis having emerged as the star in the Proteas’ recovery from a terrible 18 months into winners of the last three series they’ve played (one against New Zealand and two against Australia), it is easy to overlook Domingo’s role. The cricket fraternity likes to think the captain is in charge of everything, but one can’t see Du Plessis add coaching the team to his other responsibilities of winning the toss, deciding on field placing and finding novel ways to shine the ball.