Clinton van der Berg.
These are trying times for the men in charge, especially around the local rugby scene.

Robert du Preez of the Sharks is under pressure, the talk in the stands having made its way to the papers. His time is up, say some, pointing to the team’s inconsistency and poor results.

Meanwhile, in Joburg the Lions might be on the hunt for a new coach after Swys de Bruin cut short his Australasian trip due to stress. In the same week, one of his assistants was convicted of sexual assault in Australia.

And Robbie Fleck has already been flashed the don’t-come-Monday card with John Dobson handed the job at the Stormers for next season.

This all brings to mind the axiom that it’s not a question of whether you’ll be fired as a coach, but rather when. In professional sport, it’s only a matter of time.

It’s happened to the best of them. Kitch Christie, the World Cup-winning coach in 1995, was in his hospital bed when he got word from Louis Luyt that he was surplus to requirements. Nick Mallett was kicked out for spurious reasons even after a run of great success.

The exception was Jake White, who chose to walk from the Springbok job, saying he would never allow himself to be fired. But this was the fate that befell him at the Sharks seven years later.

It’s a reality that talks to the extraordinary pressure of the job and the onerous demands placed on coaches by boards who often have little idea of the stresses and strains.

De Bruin is known to be shattered by 18 months of non-stop coaching with both the Springboks and the Lions. Players have their limits, so there’s no earthly reason why coaches shouldn’t too, albeit with their mental rather than their physical strength tested.

It’s a horrible setback for De Bruin, a decent man and a fine coach.

Fleck was on a hiding from the start. He was handed a hospital pass after the Eddie Jones muddle and was pushed by a constituency who failed to recognise his inexperience. He tried, and he had his moments, but his was another example of a gifted, flamboyant former player who was unable to transfer his insights - and instincts - to his team.

Du Preez, too, has waxed and waned during his stint in Durban.

It can’t be an easy dynamic coaching your sons, and inconsistency has reached absurd levels. It’s difficult to point to a specific problem, but there is an issue when a team that looks so outstanding on paper plays so poorly.

In a way, rugby coaches have it good. Patience is a commodity in greater supply than it is in soccer where job security is an alien concept.

Indeed, just last weekend, as Everton were thrashing Manchester United, the commentator mused about whether United had been hasty in giving Ole Gunnar Solskjær the job full-time.

And he’s only had the gig a couple of weeks.

The PSL is more brutal: some coaches don’t even bother to unpack their suitcases.

Despite the perils, coaching has obvious appeal. The money’s good, results are instant and tangible and the job brings cachet and social standing.

But to do it you need a well-tuned sense of self-worth, bloody mindedness and rhinoceros-thick skin, things no-one ever puts on a list of job requirements.


Sunday Tribune

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