Please allow me to explain my selection of head coach for the 2017 Ruggas Draft team.
I selected Mr. Braam van Straaten.
Altough Braam van Straten is a very high profile ex-player who has been involved in rugby coaching at the most senior international levels, he dedicates his time to schoolboy rugby as well, more specifically of late at St. Charles in Pietermatritzburg, as well as with the Investec International Rugby Academy.
Selecting coaching staff is much more subjective in my view than selecting players. How do you select coaches? Players are easy. If you attend the festivals, the derbys, the youth weeks and have a real passion for schoolboy rugby like me, you probably live on Twitter and 'the blog' (www.schoolboyrugby.co.za), you know the journos (who are really tapped into things) and you spend more data on You Tube with watching matches that are streamed (how blessed are we in this modern world!!!).
You either need to know a coach, or know OF a coach. No other way. If you are involved in rugby structures in any way, chances are you will meet quite a number of coaches, and the higher your involvement in the structures, the better the coaches, in all probability. This includes rugby journalists. If the media reports on the success of a high profile coach like Messrs. Erasmus, Bergh, Dames, Van der Walt etc. you know OF the coach. If you or your family are involved in the sport you may know a few coaches personally and know a few more coaches by the proverbial 'rubbing of shoulders' and even a few more by word of reputation only. Whether a coach is good or not will have a different answer for different people. Rugby administrators may look at a track record of a coach that has come up the ranks and be very impressed and really 'rate' the coach. Players may have a love or hate relationship with a coach, so may the other coaches. Parents might despise a brilliant coach because he does not entertain their whims, or love him because he does. Other parents may really rate an otherwise very average coach because he is 'one of the manne' around the braai fires after the match. Sometimes coaches are despised by (jealous) people for using their talent and knowledge to make money from the sport in some way. Its all just very subjective and potentially a downright messy business to select the 'right' coach.
So perhaps I have not gone 'mainstream' on this selection and I did so on purpose. I believe its high time excellent coaches involved with schoolboy rugby should be given the credit due to them. I will never forget the influence Charl Du Plessis, yes the father of Paarl Gim winger Muller Du Plessis, had on my own boys' rugby development in one short afternoon ten years ago on a dry rugby field in Alberton, taking the time to introduce them to a conditioning system that changed their lives forever. There are quite a few others, but most certainly right up there with the best, you will find some club coaches investing time on icy winter nights away from their families, investing in other people's children just for the sake of loving kids and loving this beautiful game. Very few get the opportunity to work their way up in union structures because they are often not teachers. Don't get me wrong, there is so much value in a quality teacher turned part-time rugby coach who is in touch with the players, who understands the minds of these kids, who spend every minute of every day with them, and who spends their time, day in and day out, working on the rugby field in their holidays to develop and grow players and teams. Very special people indeed.
But I believe in the 2017 Ruggas Draft we are looking for excellence. Why, because we are getting our butts kicked on the highest levels, and there is a realisation that things need to change at the upper levels of schoolboy rugby. I heard the cries after the international U19 series, some very valid, but in my view a few misconceptions as well. Players were weighed and found too light (some literally) and the class of 2017 was dismissed in certain circles as not a 'good batch'. That is crap. We as a schoolboy rugby fraternity should stand up and move forward. One of the areas that I believe requires attention is at the top coaching level. Top talent needs top quality coaching and in my view professional coaching. So by making my selection I am shining the light for others that some top schools have already seen. Without naming those trend-setting schools, because we all know who they are, I think its fair to say some schools want to compete at the higher levels, but lack the resolve to go that next step.
In terms of the individual, because the draft is about individuals, let me just say this, I have it on very good authority from more than one PLAYER that Braam van Straaten is a tough nut as a coach, not everyone's cup of tea, but clear on his vision, his direction and absolutely a master AND a student of the game. Those are the coaches I believe we need, and the modern day talented rugby playing kid needs. A coach like that earns my respect and in this case, my selection. We need more professional rugby people like Braam in schoolboy rugby. I gave him a call this morning after the objections were raised and after introducing myself, he assured me he is very much part of the present and future schoolboy rugby set-up, but as in the past he has a bigger vision for the value he can add in future from a coaching perspective. As a head coach for my draft team I would be quite happy to have a head coach of that caliber in charge of my green corn, especially taking the Ruggas.co.za draft budget restraints placed upon the participants into account.