Brendan Venter no doubt like all the coaches that are in this top 1o of Domkrag coaches actually want to help SA Rugby not one of them has anything but the best intentions. Where I feel most of these coaches fall down is their firm belief that they have the right idea and regularly diregard contrasting opinion.
I recently watched the South African rugby programme called TMO. The host and several pundits in studio, including former Springbok coach Nick Mallet, had a conversation via a telephone call with Brendan Venter. What I saw was how well Venter took charge of the conversation. He is a charismatic man and exudes confidence although not all in studio were under his spell. Mallet and Venter debated several issues and it was obvious that Mallet did not agree with Venter.
Venter’s attitude in the interview was one of the Lions or Modern Rugby can’t be coached at international level. He claimed that the current Springbok team was predominantly a Lions team. He claimed that the Springboks were trying to play as the Lions do.
Firstly the whole attitude of we can’t play like that so we won’t ever try to, is the reason South Africa finds itself in it’s current rugby crisis.
Secondly in the second test against Ireland when South Africa made a miraculous comeback. During that second half comeback there were 7 Lions players on the field. That is biggest representation of Lions players in the Springbok team during the Allister Coetzee era. This rubbishes Venter’s claims that the Springbok squad is predominantly Lions players.
Thirdly Venter claims that the Springboks are trying to play Lions rugby. That is very subjective, some people say they look like they are caught between styles, some say there doesn’t seem to be a gameplan and myself an avid Lions supporter say that what the Springboks are doing is nothing like what the Lions were doing.
Venter went on to tell everyone that AC is one of his good friends and that he as a coach knows exactly what AC is trying to achieve. He only told us that he knows what AC is doing but never told us what that actually was, like it’s some kind of secret or maybe that mere mortals like us could never understand what it was. Keep your secret Brendan because what exactly have you achieved?
I remember Venter when he played for the Free State and South Africa. He was a very good centre full of confidence and self-belief. Although he was a good player my friends and I used to joke about how his legs seemed to be doing a hundred million things yet he just stood still. Michael Flatley had nothing on him. We could use this as a comparison to his coaching.
In the 1999 RWC playing against Uruguay he was red-carded for stamping on a player and played no further part in South Africa’s campaign. This would not be the last time we saw the ugly side of Venter.
In 2001 Venter became player coach at London Irish. In 2002 he played in the Powergen cup final at Twickenham against the Northampton Saints and Irish were victorious. This is the only silverware I know of that Venter has won as a coach. The Powergen cup has become the LV cup and most English and Welsh clubs choose to play their youngsters in these fixtures.
In 2009 Venter was appointed Saracens Director of Rugby. Venter formed a good partnership with fellow mid-fielder the ex Irish player Mark McCall. With Venter in charge Saracens defence tightened up, their set piece became first rate and the squad size increased with an influx of South African players.
Many people in England looked on concerned as the Saracens story was unfolding. What they liked and admired was the ambition the club showed but they didn’t want an established English club to become a London Springboks. The rugby being played by Saracens was being branded as effective but boring. There was a general dislike of Venter’s Domkrag gameplan. I have coached alongside several former Saracens players and they just said everyone else was jealous of Saracens success. Saracens really seem to be a family and current and former Saracens people stick up for each other.
“On 13 May 2010 Venter was charged with misconduct by the RFU for allegedly pushing a Leicester Tigers supporter who had asked him to sit down as he was blocking the view of the paying fans as well as making inappropriate comments and gestures to spectators. In his defence, Venter has described the incident as a bit of fun and the chief executive and the club owner of Saracens have defended Venter, claiming they considered it out of character for him. He had an existing four-week suspended ban from an incident earlier in the season, and eventually received a 10-week ban from rugby.
In November 2010 he was found guilty of misconduct due to being “inappropriately critical of ERC, the tournament, the match officials and the sport of rugby union” by ERC after he complained about the referee following his side losing at home in a key match when he considered them to be the better side, comments from neutral fans have expressed surprise at his opinions as his side were seen as out played and out thought by the opposing team. He was fined £21,850, but £13,100 was suspended until 30 June 2012.
In December 2010, Venter was warned by the ERC after giving a bizarre post-match interview following the Saracens defeat to Racing Métro 92 in the Heineken cup. Venter gave extremely short answers to every question posed to him, and afterwards admitted that he was inspired from a comedy sketch from the film Mike Bassett: England Manager which he had recently watched. The interview has since become a hit on YouTube.” from Wikipedia
I personally feel that Venter wasn’t used to the professional enviroment in the UK where you are really just as good as your last game. If you lose the British media want to hold you accountable, they imply things and probe you for answers. Venter probably felt that he had done so much positive at Saracens that it was unfair to go after him about one loss. I watched that game against Racing Metro and Venter’s infamous post match interview “…..yes Bobo, three cheers for Bobo…..” He was irritated and behaved unprofessionally.
Since Venter has left Saracens Mark McCall has become DOR and has done a magnificent job where not only premiership and european titles have been won, Saracens are now playing a ball in hand style and scoring tries.
In 2013 Venter became DOR at the Sharks and came and left with nothing really being achieved. He is back now with London Irish as technical director. He recently facilitated the recent ‘Indaba’ which was called for as Springbok rugby was in crisis. Interestingly Nick Mallet never attended the ‘Indaba’, remember Mallet did not exactly see things the same way as Venter did in their conversation on TMO.
Once again I feel South Africans are duped into thinking someone is good at their job because they are likeable or charismatic and are baffled by bullshit instead of looking at it from a results or developement point of view. I say this because I know that Venter is held in high regard in SA Rugby circles.