Loyal and passionate, innovative and knowledgeable, friendly and caring, Ian McIntosh was the face of Natal rugby for 15 years, writes John Bishop.
Loyal and passionate, innovative and knowledgeable, friendly and caring, Ian McIntosh was the face of Natal rugby for 15 years, but he served the game for a lifetime.
“Rugby,” he said simply, “was my drug.”
Mac selected, guided and motivated Natal teams for 3srcsrc games, turning the also-rans of South African rugby into champions. He bridged an age between amateur and professional rugby, and left an indelible mark on the game in this country.
His was a genuine fairy tale story. In 199src, four years after the former Zimbabwe national coach had taken over the Natal team, they were Currie Cup champions for the first time in their 1srcsrc-year history. The frog had become a princess.
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Naas Botha reckoned it was a fluke but he had wildly under-estimated Mac and his new brand of direct rugby which involved backs and forwards in integrated moves.
His approach was often maligned but Natal won 7src% of their matches during the decade, set up a record unbeaten run and individual try-scoring records with Cabous van der Westhuizen, James Small and Tony Watson flourishing out on the wing. Mac, who missed two domestic winters (1993-94) when he coached the Springboks, took Natal to five Currie Cup finals and four titles in nine years.
But Mac’s legacy was refining the outdated style of rugby played first by Natal and then, briefly, the Springboks before he was sacked by rugby boss Louis Luyt in 1994. Mac had picked the brains of Welsh coach Ray Williams, Natal innovator Izak van Heerden and Australian Rod Macqueen, who turned the Wallabies into World Cup champions in 1999.
“Mac was a driven soul who believed passionately in his own brand of rugby,” said Macqueen as he reflected on Mac’s impact. “H
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