PRETORIA – In any normal world, the announcement of new Lions Currie Cup head coach Ivan "Cash" van Rooyen should have been received with shock and dismay.
But there is nothing normal about rugby in South Africa.
I’m sure Van Rooyen is a nice guy, has the attributes to one day be a head coach and has served under enough coaches to know what it takes to lead a professional rugby outfit. But so too does a guy like Joey Mongalo, Bafana Nhleko, Ricardo Loubscher, Sino Ganto, Deon Kayser, Deon Davids, Dumisani Mhani, David Dobela, Chumani Booi, Vuyo Zangqa, Jonathan Mokuena, Alfred Mzizi and not least Paul Treu.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union has already invested much into Mongalo, who started off with the juniors, went on to be defence coach for the Junior Springboks and now is the Lions Super Rugby defence coach.
The same applies to Nhleko.
However, the Lions have conveniently overlooked the coaching experience and qualifications of Mongalo and Nhleko and opted to perpetuate the age old issue in SA rugby of patronage and a resistance to change.
The Lions are not unique to this phenomenon of not believing in black coaches and giving them the same opportunities as their white counterparts with most, if not all, the unions happily living in the past.
It’s been obvious for many decades now that the key qualification or competence to being a head coach, especially at senior level, is that one is white and knows the right people.
If this was not the case, then a coach such as Mhani would have long found a home at one of the Super Rugby franchises after his name was shortlisted for the Springbok coaching job back in 2004.
Mzizi long left coaching, even though he is one of the most qualified coaches in the country.
The late Peter Maimane had also found himself doing menial work, even though he was highly qualified, had served as assistant to several successful Blue Bulls Under-21 teams and the Junior Springboks and had coached the Blue Bulls Merit 'A' side in an unbeaten season.
At the time of his passing in 2012, Maimane was no longer involved in rugby after having served in Peter de Villier’s Springbok management team as a technical analyst.
Western Province find themselves in a similar dilemma where Stormers assistant coach Paul Treu has to serve under a coach who is less experienced and qualified than him.
Lest we forget, Treu has coached two international teams, albeit Sevens teams, and also holds a Master’s degree in sport and outside of South Africa is regarded as one of the most astute rugby minds around.
So, why isn’t Treu good enough to be a head coach in the Currie Cup or Super Rugby?
Zangqa, who assisted Treu with the Blitzbokke and Kenya, is now head coach of the German men’s Sevens side and from time-to-time is roped into helping the men’s XV side.
This self-destructive behaviour by rugby bosses across the country is set to continue with the successor to soon-to-be departed Bulls coach John Mitchell not going to be either one of the names I have mentioned above.
My colleagues in the media don’t help as well, with some journalists touting coaches who have never been involved in Super Rugby at all and even former players who have never been head coaches at any level.
I ask, what about Deon Davids? Can’t he coach the Bulls? Isn’t he qualified and hasn’t he coached at Super Rugby level?
But then I am reminded by the happenings of the past and present, that equal opportunity and progress is the enemy to a game that remains for a privileged few in this country who are certainly not black.