Rugby coaching / setup changes at KZN schools for 2018

Yet another Westville  rugby official jumps ship.

Dirkie Strydom – Westville. Westville’s 2017 1st XV head coach who made way for Jeremy McLaren and was all set to focus more intensely on directing the Highways’ school’s rugby, has handed in his resignation and will be heading to Middelburg in the Pumas region to work at Hoërskool Kanonkop. With so many coaches having parted ways with Westville in recent years, one might be inclined to think that the working environment isn’t too pleasant there. However with part of his family having already moved back to Middelburg, Dirkie’s decision has been put down to him wanting to reunite them under one roof again.

Instability is the appropriate term to describe the rugby setup at Ville. Jeremy McLaren who joined from Glenwood late in 2017, will be Westville’s fourth different head coach in four seasons. However as some seemingly good coaches have come and go, WBHS somehow manages to keep attracting quality. Another worthy recent addition has been Njabulo Zulu, a WOB (Westville Old Boy) with Golden Lions Academy Week coaching experience as well as being former all-KZN schoolboy rugby player, having earned caps at u13, u16 and u18 level for the province.

Braam van Straaten – St Charles. Once the dust settled at Kings Park, it was revealed that former Bok flyhalf Braam van Straaten, would look after the Super Rugby team’s defence in addition to his role as kicking coach. This effectively means that Braam and not Dick Muir replaces Ryan Studwick (now at Michaelhouse) at the Sharks. Braam spent a season overseeing the rugby of St Charles before joining the Sharks on a full-time basis. His understudy Petrus du Plessis, who is the St Charles’ strength and conditioning guru and scrum coach will take over in the role of Director of Rugby at the Pietermaritzburg private school.

Northwood sees the return of the prodigal son (again)
Grant Bashford – Northwood. He’s back! Can you believe it. After literally walking out on Northwood midseason last year to take up a job in Japan, “Bashie” has been returned to the Knights fold, no questions asked. Bashie will be Director of Coaching in this his third spell at Northwood. Torsten Sorenson will continue on as 1st XV Head Coach. Jonathan Scuby remains as Director of Rugby.

Blog from 1st January 2018

Dick Muir – Northwood. It was eventually confirmed late in 2017 that Dick Muir would be returning to the Sharks as an assistant coach, thereby ending his short-term stint with Northwood. A couple of interesting things came out of this move.

Firstly it’s alleged that Grant Bashford who held the job before Muir and vacated it to head to Japan, applied unsuccessfully to get back his old job at the school. In the end Northwood decided to back Torsten Sorensen, who might have his work cut out for him again this season but stands every chance of reaping the rewards in 2019 if the development of last year’s under-16A players goes well.

Secondly Muir appointment at the Sharks created a knock-on effect that impacted on Ryan Strudwick ending up at Michaelhouse.

Ryan Strudwick – Michaelhouse. A few years back, Strudwick  joined Maritzburg College after his contract was up with the Sharks, so he’s acquired plenty of experience of dealing with school kids and he’s also had to come to terms with feeling let down by the Rugby Union. If he was disappointed with the Sharks during that spell at College, one can only imagine how much unhappier he must be with the decision-makers at Kings Park these days. He was effectively forced out of the picture altogether as a Sharks senior pro level coach to make way for the arrival of Dick Muir. According to the print media in November 2017, Strudwick is/was still awaiting some explanations from the Sharks.
Read the full article here: https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/axed-strudwick-still-waiting-for-reasons-20171121-2

The lousy part is that the tone of that article has probably put Strudders on the back foot with the Michaelhouse support base as well now.  It states that he “…has settled for a job as sports director at private school Michaelhouse despite offering to take a demotion to the Sharks’ juniors.”  The House job which incidentally received plenty of applications, is made to seem decidedly inferior. Anyway actions will speak a lot louder than words in the months to come and if Strudwick delivers, this start will be quickly forgotten.

Derek Heiberg – Glenwood. Heiberg’s meteoric rise at Glenwood continued as he was named new head coach in late 2017, replacing Jeremy McLaren (now Westville). Helberg, a biokineticist by qualification joined Glenwood in 2013 as their Head of Physical Education and a strength and conditioning consultant. 2013 was Sean Erasmus’ last year in charge of Glenwood rugby and there have been a few personnel changes since then. At the start of 2017, Heiberg was elevated to Director of Rugby replacing Shawn van Rensburg (now DHS) and also served as assistant 1st XV coach (replacing Mike Vowles). His new assistant will be Jose dos Santos, the 2017 u16A coach.

Blog from October 2017

Westville lands in the KZN pound seat

Wow! This is going to be one for the books. Westville who form an integral part of KZN school rugby and yet seem to have been marginalised in the all-important under-18 youth week decision-making process for many years now, will soon have the Craven Week head coach and with him a KZN Sharks under-18 selector’s vote. This all happens once highly rated coach Jeremy McLaren joins their staff – (expected 01 November).

Let’s hope no-one feels too threatened by this move as it does bring about a really nice even spread of the selectors’ votes amongst the key schools, provided all other things remain consistent.

McLaren’s move comes as a bit of a surprise. He was only in charge of the Glenwood 1st XV for this past one season having gained promotion to that role from the u16A, and was expected to be in charge of that same talented u16 group at 1st XV level in 2018.

The Westville shift may still see McLaren in the role of head coach, with Dirkie Strydom who had held the job for this 2017 season, stepping into a type of rugby director’s role. However this is unconfirmed.

COACHING MOVEMENTS IN KZN

It is the second big coach news item coming out of KZN in the last few weeks, after Michaelhouse stalwart Ryno Combrinck was announced as Paul Roos’ new rugby head.

In other known moves, Michaelhouse picked up old boy James Fleming from the EPRU (and Sharks before that) to head up an interesting portfolio as the head of sports medicine and he’ll also be actively involved in 1st XV rugby coaching. Sam Mofokeng, having worked at various private schools, has finally paid all his dues and is set to take charge of the Michaelhouse 1st XV in 2018. He replaces Andre van Wyk who steps down to a lower A-team after a couple of years in charge at the top. Remember Michaelhouse have also effectively lost the services of former 1st XV head coach Michael Schwartz to St Alban’s in Pretoria. The master in charge of sport position is up for grabs at Michaelhouse so there could still be a significant new face at Balgowan before long.

Jo-Ash van Aswegen, the Westville 1st XV assistant coach for the past few years and former head boy has joined Clifton, in what now looks like a neat WOB core, as two key figures in the Morningside school’s setup Ross Saayman (head coach) and Grant Bell (Director) are also both alumni from the leafy suburbs of ‘Ville. Clifton has also acquired the services of Hendan Wienand.

Jo-Ash takes the place vacated by Jono Piek, a Glenwood old boy and current KZN under-18 selector. Piek is one of the new faces at Glenwood.

It felt like it was only yesterday when Shawn van Rensburg was named as Glenwood’s new director of rugby, but it was actually back in 2014. He made a quick and quiet exit during April and now plies his trade at DHS.

During the season Northwood’s man in charge Grant Bashford resigned in order to move to a Japanese rugby club. He was replaced as head coach by his assistant Torsten Sorensen, who was part of the big exodus from Westville a couple of years back. Dick Muir stepped into the director of rugby role for the rest of the 2017 season but there is every chance of seeing Muir as part of the Sharks ranks next year and not with Northwood. After four years at the helm Northwood headmaster Paul McAvoy also called it quits. The headmaster appointment usually has a bearing on rugby direction at a school.

24 Comments

  1. Wow some big shifts a foot. Any confirmation on the Dicks Muirs departure from Northwood? wow will be sad to see him go – although would be great to have him back at the Sharks.

    Glenwood seem to be leaking good talent, coaches and players I hear – and DHS i believe are profiting. Also in time Clifton will be a force to be reckoned with – the same way St Charles have improved. Private all boys without the need to board is very attractive in KZN!

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  2. Beet Howzit – Happy 2018 and all those good things. Strudders should surely be claiming #fakenews / poor journalism OR he should learn to double declutch when he changes gear – think before you bumble publically. If the report is accurate, as a House supporter I find it interesting and concerning that he has elected to start his stint at House with his periscope up, still looking for other possible career opportunities. Hopefully he gets stuck in and settles in to all that House offers to him.

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  3. @McCulleys Workshop: Happy New Year McCulleys and all others.

    Yeah I guess House is also going through its own redefinition transition phase now. It wasn’t too long ago that Rector Theron made reference to professionalism at House and I guess in a way the article creates a sense that this pro style approach is exactly what MHS are getting now.

    I spoke to a MHS “insider” about the new appointment a few days ago and one thing he reminded me about something which won’t come thru in a newspaper report and that is Strudwick’s likeable personality. He’s a nice guy and although there’ll be no mistaking on what aspects he’ll ultimately be judged in terms of success in his new role at House, he’s the sort of person who is bound to have those around him rooting for him to do well.

    In a way its a pity the article sidetracks into SBR. The main theme is the cut throat world of pro rugby. A good guy who has trusted the union, probably worked his arse off, been part of a fairly successful Currie Cup run and possibly been made aware of the good work he’s going or maybe perhaps even had a reasonable right to assume that his services would be retained, suddenly gets kicked to the head and what’s more those who did it, don’t afford him the courtesy of a sit down explanation for what happened, not that they are obliged to but it sucks that someone goes from teamster to cut out the picture entirely.

    Also there is no doubt that the Sharks juniors are badly in need of help. The experience of having Sean Everitt there again will no doubt be a huge bonus but even still in relation to the other big guns of SA provincial rugby, the setup has this neglected feel about it.

    But agree with you. Hopefully Strudders can put the mentioneddisappoiting treatment by the Sharks behind him and get stuck at Balgowan. I hope he doesn’t drown in all the admin work.

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  4. @McCulleys Workshop:Also it sounds like James Fleming is going to be a great asset to House. Seems like his enthusiasm and love for old school are off the charts and the boys are loving their interactions with him from what I’ve heard.

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  5. @Beet: I think he will make a great contribution to conditioning and believe he is a defensive coaching specialist. It’ll be interesting to watch the space.

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  6. Wow wonder why Bashy did not get his old job back? Perhaps just some stability needed now. The boys have been messed about a bit it seems, and NWood need some consistency if they hope to build anything meaningful. A tough year ahead still I fear. Some decent u16A’s will come through I think, but again depth might be a problem, along with the step up to 1st team level against some more settled and senior teams at other schools.

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  7. Good grief! If the Knights can settle down i.t.o their coaching structures things may change for the better.
    @beet – will there be 2 directors of rugby?

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  8. Big loss for St Charles I feel. Braam was doing great things by the look of it. But still St Charles are well placed in the SA education system to continue to attract and recruit top rugby talent.

    @Beet Any thoughts on the KZN teams this year and how the should fare?

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  9. @Skywalker: Agree about Braam van Straaten. I was looking forward to him introducing some radical ideas to schoolboy rugby which he mentioned he was developing during the latter part of last year :cry: . Looking at his career so far, he is bound to turn up somewhere in the SBR scene again at some stage. Wishing him all the best in his new role.

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  10. I hear Mclaren is great, so maybe things will settle now. Westville have the players no question, so just a case of settling on a style of play and a coach.

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  11. @Skywalker: It is a little concerning that coaches come and go this frequently. Hopefully things will now settle down and we can build going forward. Sad to see him go as the results last year was a massive improvement on the previous year.

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  12. @Skywalker: Regarding KZN. Without jinxing Glenwood, I think this will be their season. They tick a lot of boxes and have useful + plenty of experienced players in just about every starting position. Personally I feel the main interest will be to see what their new head coach brings to the party and how the team gels under his guidance. I’d also like to see who will step up to be the big ball carrier/s for Glenwood or if their style of play even requires one. From a national point of view, I think Glenwood’s poor form at Grey College at the end of last season now works in their favour because it’s taken a lot of the limelight away and allows them to enter 2018 without as much expectations as most seasons in the recent past.

    The battle for 2nd in KZN is possibly were all the interest may lie. I can’t say that there is a clear-cut favourite but I don’t think Westville have done their chances any harm by acquiring McLaren. Ville are way overdue for a big season. It may not happen this year but one can see them performing better over the next few years if they can bring about some sort of coaching stability and find JM the right assistant partner. Finding the right sort of asst coach seems more important at Ville than any other KZN school based on recent history.

    Hilton get to combine 2 useful age-groups this year, so expect they will also be right up there and may even rue not playing Glenwood if their team gels and plays to true potential. They should come out on top as best KZN private school and might set their sights on a double double over KC and MHS.

    DHS have probably been working hardest of all KZN schools to 1st XV level recruit players in the obvious hopes of improving their chances so I suspect we will have to see the quantity and impact the newbies have on their results. They have a few good returning players as well but their success will probably come down to managing two things – masking weaknesses of fringe players and lack of depth when injuries hit.

    Kearsney really hard to say but I suspect they will be battling it out for a finish somewhere in the middle of the KZN tier 1. Seems like a decent sized pack and the coaches have done very well with the backline playbook over the past few seasons. Depth is always an issue at the KZN privates and with those 2 back to back festivals in April, they might come out of it with regrets. Since the KZN season is congested into mainly the second term there isn’t much breathing room or recovery time between key matches.

    Michaelhouse – more or less like Kearsney, I don’t feel overly confident that they will have a season to write home about but one expects them to put up stiff resistance in their derbies. Also a new coaching setup. They will be under pressure if results don’t go their way but perhaps the key objective is to lay the groundwork.

    Maritzburg College – If I’m not mistaken, this matric year hasn’t had much success at lower age-group level, so I say they come in as the complete underdogs. They have a few players to be excited about though and being a big school with a strong rugby culture, maybe a couple of match-winners backed up by confident players and some good coaching and motivation will go a long way.

    Northwood. Perhaps just a year out from a good season.

    Clifton. I’m keen to see what they have to offer. I think it could be a good year for them.

    St Charles. I’m really not sure what to expect.

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  13. I do not have any active affiliation with any school anymore. I do however want to say something about the new Director at St Charles. In Petrus du Plessis you now have one of the finest young coaches I have ever met. An absolute GENTLEMAN. A fine coach. A decent human being.
    Well done Petrus. And thank you. You will know.

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  14. @Pinotage: Hi Pinotage, St Charles certainly turned things around last year. From memory House have generally beaten them quite well through all the age groups over the years, but last year was very different, I think we may have scraped the first team game and lost all the other A team games and the win loss ratio on the day shifted dramatically. This year should be no exception. St Charles are producing quality private school all round education at a reasonable price, with huge tradition and a church school ethos. Good for them.

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  15. @McCulleys Workshop: There’s been some activity in Kanonkop. Heard WBHS is a swimming school.
    A student walking from Kanonkop to the Nkangala FET campus, claims that she saw a crocodile in the Klein Olifants.

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