Stormers coach Robbie Fleck believes October’s rugby indaba will help South African rugby rediscover its identity.
Fleck is firmly in favour of the October 19-21 gathering, which will put the men leading the country’s professional rugby structures together to pave a way forward for the ailing game.
In May Springbok coach Allister Coetzee asked the six Super Rugby coaches – Nollis Marais (Bulls), Franco Smith (Cheetahs), Deon Davids (Kings), Johan Ackermann (Lions), Gary Gold (Sharks) and Fleck (Stormers) – if they would be open to the idea.
The feedback was a resounding ‘yes’ as SA’s new breed of coaches looks to improve standards, share ideas and set in motion a style of play that will be seamless from Super Rugby to Test level.
Fleck, who has signed a three-year deal to continue coaching the Stormers after acting as interim coach in 2016, believes that SA Rugby needs to find an identity that every franchise will work to fine tune, which will be to the benefit of the Springboks.
“The timing of this indaba is good in the sense that we are all young coaches who are open to sharing and trying to do what will be best for Springboks and not only our franchises,” Fleck said.
“We are all keen to learn but also to help make SA Rugby the best in the world again. We all want to play a positive brand of rugby but we cannot lose sight of what South African rugby’s traditional strengths are as well.
“We need to focus on that and rediscover what our identity is because we have lost that a little bit.
“If it requires bringing in older coaches or influential people in SA rugby, then let’s do it.
“Of course we have to move with the times and play a positive brand of rugby, but sometimes we get lost in that. We need to find the South African way, and once we are clear on that and aligned, every Super Rugby team can work towards achieving it.
“Allister Coetzee doesn’t have an ego, so he will be the right guy to drive this. He wants what’s best for South African rugby.”
Fleck was speaking from London where he spent time at Saracens and with England coach Eddie Jones at their impressive base at Pennyhill Park in Surrey.
Jones is something of a mentor to Fleck, who picked his brain during their time together.
“The structure is a little different in England where the clubs are more autonomous, but Eddie Jones is in regular contact with all the clubs and has built up good relations with them,” Fleck said.
“They are all pretty much aligned in terms of what’s best for English rugby and they will be challenging the All Blacks very soon. That is why it’s important we do something similar in South Africa.
“This indaba is a great initiative and as coaches we have already started by having informal discussions about the direction of South Africa rugby,” Fleck said.
“This is a meeting that should have happened a long time ago. It’s brilliant that Allister has been able to organise it.
“I’m excited by the idea and I hope it’s the start of things to come. We have to start somewhere and I think the first point we need to clarify is” ‘what is South African rugby and where does it need to go?’
“We need to find the South African way. In one meeting you won’t change the world but it’s a start.
“SA players need to improve their strength and conditioning, which is one aspect we all acknowledge. One we have a common goal at Super Rugby level we can help the Springboks to become better and better.
“That’s what happens in New Zealand and we need to be doing something similar.”