In a paradigm shift for rugby coaching, Alexandre Ruiz, a former French international referee, has transitioned to a defence coach role for Montpellier, illustrating a trend of non-traditional paths to top coaching positions. This move echoes South Africa’s unconventional choices, such as appointing a career physiotherapist, Jacques Nienaber, as the Springboks’ head coach and fitness trainer, Ivan van Rooyen, for the Lions. Tom Dawson-Squibb, a high-performance coach and sports psychologist, has similarly been chosen to lead the University of Cape Town’s rugby team. These appointments signify a departure from traditional authority figures like ex-teachers and former policemen, demonstrating a changing landscape in rugby coaching, where diverse backgrounds and skill sets are increasingly valued. The article was first published on FirstRand Perspectives.
When the guy in the changing room corner ends up as your coach one day
By Simnikiwe Xabanisa
In a classic case of a gamekeeper turned poacher, French international referee Alexandre Ruiz recently quit officiating to become a defence coach for club side Montpellier.
As someone who needed to score in the region of 1srcsrc% on his rugby laws exam, at some level, the left-field nature of the appointment makes sense because he should know his rugby – certainly in theory.
But the leap from neutral arbiter to knee-deep partisan participant also takes some getting used to, particularly when you consider that Montpellier had, over the past season, leaked so many points in their matches one could only conclude they were defending with the firmness of wet toast.
South Africans may have stopped short of going the French route by getting rid of the box in finding new ways of hiring coaches, but they, too, have allowed their imagination to go a little vivid when hiring their mentors. The Springboks went for career physiotherapist Jacques Nienaber as their head coach of choice to defend their world title; the Lions promoted fitness trainer Ivan van Rooyen to the top job; and the University of Cape Town recently surprised by hiring Tom Dawson-Squibb – who identifies as a high-performance coach but is widely used as a sports psychologist by the teams he works with – as the man to stabilise their Varsity Cup performances.
This is a far cry from the days when rugby used to go for authority figures like ex-teachers (think of the Springboks’ Jake White, Australia’s Eddie Jones and New Zealand’s Graham Henry) or former policemen (the All Blacks’ Steve Hansen or the Bulls’ “Brigadier” Buurman van Zyl
…. to be continued
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