PRETORIA – Is Brendan Venter the right doctor to cure the Springboks defensive ailments?
The answer to that question will only be revealed once the Boks take on France in the opening Test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
A medical doctor by profession and a former Springbok centre, Venter was at the heart of diagnosing the weaknesses of the Springboks defence last year as he was one of the masterminds behind Italy’s historic and maiden Test win against the South Africans.
Venter now takes over the responsibilities of making sure that the leaky Springbok defence is up to standard and can remain water tight after the national team's worst seasons ever last year.
The much travelled Venter is the fourth defence coach since Allister Coetzee took over the reins of a year ago and Venter will have to do what Jacques Nienaber, Chean Roux and JP Ferreira couldn’t in turning one of the worst defensive sides in the world, to the best.
“Brendan is a world class coach and he brings a wealth of experience. He has been primarily focused on Northern Hemisphere rugby and we face more than 50 percent of our games this year against Northern Hemisphere opposition,” said Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan.
"He is a very passionate guy, this is the first time I’ve worked with him, and I really enjoyed the work ethic that he brings. But it is not about one coach but all of our coaches together.
"The most important thing is that the team have to buy into the plan that we put on the table and the players have been absolutely fantastic. The vibe and compliments that the coaches are getting from the players are pretty special at this stage and it is great to have great coaches on board."
But can Venter turn the defensive misfits into a world class wall and will Venter be able to last the full mile, at least until the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan?
Venter is renowned for his nomadic tendencies and his lack of staying power at one team.
The 47-year-old Venter has worked in patches at English clubs London Irish and Saracens, while he was also a consultant at the Sharks in 2013 but it was his short but successful stint with the Azzurri that would have probably convinced Coetzee that Venter is the right man in the Springboks darkest hour.
Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland believes that Venter’s knowledge of the game and his attention to detail will add value to the national team.
“I’ve known Brendan for a long time and he is a very good coach. He is a very knowledgeable man and will be a good addition to the Boks,” said McFarland who was introduced to South African rugby by Venter when they worked together at London Irish.
For all of Venter’s knowledge and acumen especially with bringing something from the left field to his defensive plans, it could all come to nothing if he doesn’t stay the distance and see the Springboks to the World Cup in two years’ time."