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NZ example driving SA recovery plan

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Thursday, January 11, 2018    Getty Images

Mark Keohane wrote on sport24.co.za, "New Zealand manages the consequence of the player exodus better than the rest because of the national coaching structures and also the quality of those coaches."

In making his comments Keohane drew comparisons with South Africa's painful loss of players and how the New Zealand approach could be applied as a result of South Africa's new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus' working with Ireland's New Zealand coach Joe Schmidt during his time at Munster.

"What has hurt South African rugby the most is how the player drain has weakened the [Investec] Super Rugby franchises. The Test team should be able to survive, as New Zealand has shown in refusing to select overseas-based players for the All Blacks," Keohane said.

"The underbelly of the All Blacks, the Super Rugby franchises, have been vulnerable at times over the last decade but excellent coaching and player identification has ensured that New Zealand has still continued its dominance of the competition despite losing close to 150 players."

Yet, he said, in the time those players had been lost New Zealand teams had continued to win the Super Rugby title with all five franchises having claimed the honour at least once.

"New Zealand has 31 All Blacks among the 147 players overseas and they have lost 12 of their last 52 capped Test players. There are also 15 others who left who now play for other countries. But their domestic product remains strong," he said.

As a result of his exposure to Schmidt, and knowing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's method, Erasmus knows that South Africa's system needs to ensure those involved with the Springboks coaching need to be working all-year round.

"Their roles are not restricted to the international season that starts mid-year. Their role is also not exclusive to working with the selected Springbok squad at camps and also during the international season.

"Erasmus wants to get an understanding and appreciation of how each of the four Super Rugby and two Pro14 franchises function. He wants to contribute where needed or wanted and he wants to learn as much as he believes he can teach," he said.

The New Zealand lessons showed South Africa's domestic game could be strong but Erasmus believed that could only be achieved as a collective response.

"This doesn't mean every team playing a similar pattern or being a clone of the other.

"The collective he talks about is intellectually, where coaches brainstorm and strategise together…and operationally are a part of that bigger South African picture," he said.

"If he [Erasmus] can contribute to making the franchise environment stronger from a rugby intellectual position, then those six franchise coaches will naturally make his national environment stronger," Keohane said.

That process has already started with interaction with the franchises since January 8 and which will continue for the next six months as a prelude to beginning the country's long march back up the world rankings.