Kitch Christie is the new SA rugby coach, but will the IRB allow former professional player Ray Mordt to be his assistant?
RUGBY: Jon Swift
WE have endured a plethora of threats from high-ranking rugby officials since our beleaguered national team returned from the somewhat unhappy tour of New Zealand.
Jannie Engelbrecht vowed to take on Sarfu president Louis Luyt and reshape the game’s management system.
The first part of the promise proved a slanging match of epic proportions, the second half has yet to be truly tested.
Luyt, true to his word, resigned when Engelbrecht stayed, but was persuaded to stay on and use his administrative and organisational skills to ensure the success of next year’s World Cup in this country.
Now it is the turn of new South African coach Kitch Christie to have his word tested.
Christie, who replaced Ian McIntosh after a mammoth meeting at Luyt’s Ellis Park stronghold on Wednesday, is on record as saying he does not really want the job if he can’t have Ray Mordt as his assistant.
The thinking is sound from Christie’s point of view.
With the former Bok, he has formed a hugely successful partnership, bringing home the Super 10 trophy, the Currie Cup championship and the Lion Cup and Nite Series trophy in 1993.
It was a stupendous season and the end of 21 lean years in the Currie Cup for the province and further tempered the bonds between Christie and Mordt.
But in insisting on having Mordt as his number two, Christie—who will also convene the three-man selection panel including Dougie Dyers and Hannes Marais—has placed Sarfu in what could be a highly embarrassing position.
For Mordt—unlike Christie, a capped international—to be confirmed as his deputy, the International Rugby Board will have to be called in to adjudicate.
Mordt gave up his amateur status when he and South African flanker Rob Louw signed for British league club Wigan.
The IRB is quite adamant about professionalism and any taint thereof. Former professional players can coach at club and provincial level, but that is where the line has been drawn.
Sarfu will have to get a special dispensation to allow Mordt to wear a green and gold tracksuit yet again.
And with any number of fingers pointed at the rampant shamateurism among players in this country from overseas unions, one questions the wisdom of both Christie’s insistence on Mordt and Sarfu’s appointment of Christie.
The appointment is directed specifically at a good showing in the World Cup. Luyt has made that much abundantly clear.
So, should Mordt be disqualified and Christie make good his threat to abandon the position without the assistance of his wily sidekick, South African rugby will be back where it started.
We await with trepidation the outcome of the manoeuvering still ahead.