Why there’s only one man for the Bulls job: Deon Davids
He will give shape to a Springbok succession plan which has to have a black candidate high on its list of priorities
The appointment of the next Bulls coach may help shape the Springbok landscape post Rassie Erasmus’s tenure at the national team. That may sound a bit far-fetched at the minute, but indulge me.
The Bulls last week announced a shortlist of candidates to take over from John Mitchell who vacated the position earlier this season. Deon Davids, the Southern Kings coach; Pote Human, coach of the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup; and former Springbok lock and Bulls captain Victor Matfield are the men considered for the position. The candidates have completed online evaluations and will be formally interviewed in the coming weeks.
Human, a stalwart in his playing days at Free State and Eastern Province, is a longtime career coach. His crowning glory came in the Varsity Cup where he coached Tukkies to the title. His stint as forwards coach for the Ricoh Black Rams in Tokyo would have broadened his horizons.
Matfield, chiefly because of his decorated playing career with the Bulls and the Springboks, is in some circles perceived to be a ready-made candidate. Unlike Human who has coached since 1996, Matfield’s only practical experience came as a forwards consultant at the Lions. He may well be an astute forwards coach and he may have been a resourceful plotter and schemer in the Bok and Bulls ranks, but to parachute him into the position of head coach at Super Rugby level would be a slap in the face of the other candidates, including some who didn’t make the shortlist. He needs more time coaching to be a coach.
That brings us to a man who has had to coach perhaps beyond the call of duty. Davids over the past few seasons has taken charge of a rag-tag team but has performed near miracles. Were his hand not the one on the tiller of a team in perennial flux, the Southern Kings may have had no prospect of playing in the Pro14. He kept the bottom from falling out at the Kings and that makes him eminently suitable to take over at the Bulls who are still very much in a rebuilding phase. Mitchell started that project but it is far from complete.
What the Bulls need is a coach who can troubleshoot and find quick solutions and that is exactly what Davids has been doing the last few years. Davids has worked with a team with a limited skills base but at a franchise like the Bulls his coaching skills can be properly assessed. How he extracts the most out of Springboks and more established players will be watched with interest should he get the job.
Should he indeed crack the nod Davids is also likely to affect the landscape beyond Pretoria. Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, while wearing his hat as director of rugby at SA Rugby, was part of the advisory panel that made recommendations to the Bulls board for the vacant position.
Erasmus will be the Bulls forwards coach next year. With props Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka, locks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager, as well as loose forwards Marco van Staden and Duane Vermeulen in the their pack, he should forge continuity in the buildup to the Springboks’ commitments next year.
Moreover, with Erasmus intimately involved in the Bulls setup he can also help set a playing blueprint that more closely resembles what the Springboks are hoping to unleash on the world stage next year.
Even more pertinent, Davids operating in concert with the Springbok coach will potentially have the inside lane to take over from Erasmus after next year’s Rugby World Cup. Erasmus is then expected to return to his position in high office at SA Rugby with a contract that will only expire in 2023.
Inserting Davids as the Bulls coach will give form and shape to a Springbok succession plan which has to have a suitable black candidate high on its list of priorities.
There is however a potential complication. The Southern Kings don’t want to let go of their prized asset just yet.
“Should the Blue Bulls Company wish to make a formal offer for the services of the head coach, such a proposition will need to be presented to the Southern Kings board for consideration before any decision is made,” the Kings said in a statement last week.
Frankly, deploying Davids to the Bulls is in the national interest and SA Rugby must be seen doing everything they can to make that happen.