Thursday, 17 December 2009

For as long as I can remember Southland’s been the poor rugby relation of Big Brother Otago. But no more!

We now are proud owners of the Ranfurly Shield. We now beat Otago more than they beat us. We now have a better talent identification system than them. And we now officially have better rugby coaches than them because ours are good enough to be home grown.

Due to some indescribably bad luck and some incredible stupidity from the selectors of the day, I never got to play provincial rugby. What I did glean though, from a long and less-than-luminous club career was that good coaches were good because they were great man managers and motivators rather than necessarily being brilliant technicians.

And the irony is I reckon, at club level, players need technical coaching more than those at provincial level. Let’s face it, these days if you’re good enough to play for Otago or Southland, chances are you’ve been hot-housed through an age-group talent identification or academy system and have already been exposed to some very technical coaching.

David Henderson and Simon Culhane are proof. Sure, they know their bridge from their gate from their truck and trailer (or whatever other trendy term’s in vogue in rugby these days) but most importantly they know their players, they treasure the heritage of the province and they know what it means to wear the S on the left breast.

They have developed a culture which is unashamedly Southland. And hey - it’s cool to be a Southland supporter these days - if you don’t believe me try buying a Stags’ jersey on the eve of a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

By contrast Otago’s decision to appoint Australian reject Phil Mooney ahead of the iconic southern man David Latta beggars belief! It’s not as though Mooney is the next Rod McQueen, he was red-carded by the Reds after six months!

Mooney may well be an excellent technical coach but I question whether he can instill the one ingredient Otago rugby lacks, on and off the field, at the moment - passion!

A decade ago, on the back of a Super 12 final at Carisbrook and an NPC title, Otago rugby was at an all-time high while Southland struggled with second-rate imports. My how the tide has turned in the intervening 10 years!


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