Keith Nicholls
Keith Nicholls

Into the unknown

Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m actually looking forward to a bit of a break from all the rugby we’ve had this year. There’s been an absolute glut, and as South African supporters we couldn’t have asked for a better year: a World Cup win, two local teams fighting it out for the Super 14 title, an exciting Currie Cup final and player depth looking healthier than in many a year.

The Barbarians game on the weekend was a step too far, though — everything about it felt tired … unless you were a Barbarians supporter.

But now is as good a time as any to sit back and reflect on a golden year — and on what the future may hold.

There has been much speculation on how the rugby landscape will change in the new year. Jake White is gone, murmurings over political intervention persist, the game’s leadership may be in for a change and experimental rule changes have been approved for the Super 14.

So, it seems, we are in for an eventful ride.

I do hope calm heads prevail, though. It’s taken a lot of work to re-establish the Boks as a brand at the top of rugby’s pecking order, a team to be proud of.

As regards our current winning team, it’s not rocket science. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just think back to how Andre Markgraaff came in and began dismantling the 1995 World Cup-winning team. No sooner were we world champions than all the hard work was undone.

No doubt whoever becomes coach will have his own ideas. Let’s hope that it’s a case of a few tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. After all, you can’t really find too much fault with a combination that’s just won a World Cup.

I don’t know what a change in the game’s leadership will bring — there always seems to be controversy, no matter who sits in the SA Rugby hot seat, so I’m not setting the expectations bar too high on that one.

And political intervention? It’s South Africa; it’s there. No good arguing about team representativeness in a World Cup year. Do something constructive now. Don’t leave the national coach looking at provincial and regional teams fielding 14 white players in four years’ time. The blame can’t be left at the door of the national team if the provinces don’t come to the party.

And as South African rugby heads into a period of unknown, so Gary Kirsten himself heads into a bit of the unknown as coach of India. A daunting task, given the high profile of cricket in that country.

Critics have pointed to his lack of international coaching experience as a drawback. But if a level temperament and pragmatic approach are the hallmarks of any good coach, then he is already on a winning wicket.

Good luck, Gary, you’ll need it.