Kearsney appoints Keegan Daniel as Director of Rugby

Kearsney has gone against the grain and appointed the relatively inexperienced coach Keegan Daniel as their Director of Rugby.

Kearsney 1st XV rugby has been trending downwards in recent years.

Dating back to the start of the 2019 season, their last 28 local interschools’ matches within the borders of KwaZulu-Natal have produced just 8 wins, 2 draws and 18 defeats. That’s a low win percentage of just 29% with 4 of the 8 wins coming against Clifton (1) and St Charles (3). They have not beaten Glenwood, Hilton, Maritzburg College or Westville in a while.

So naturally there is a bit of restlessness amongst Old Boys and parents forming their core rugby community. The pressure to improve things is already big and will only grow with the expectations of better on-field fortunes in 2024, especially now that there is a Director on board, who’s expected to turn the ship around. Being appointed to the position by a small committee that included two former team-mates is perhaps not the ideal confidence-building launch-pad but it’s fair to also say that Kearsney did have plenty of time to assess Keegan’s performance as he coached at u14A level during the 2023 season.

Keegan is best recognised for being a clever, mobile, at times combative loose-forward who represented the Springbok and captained the Sharks during a noteworthy career. His rise to prominent at the Sharks also turned him into a poster-boy for the Union’s junior rugby recruitment programme that fed players into the Sharks Academy. He arrived in Durban as a youngster without a contract after schooling at Dale College in the Border region and quickly put to rest any doubts about his ability to succeed as a forward based on his physique (although he did have a stint at scrumhalf while moving up the ranks). Talent, heart, energy and work-ethic turned his journey to the very top into a bit of Cinderella story.

Kearsney aside, Keegan has a few glowing reviews from those who have coached alongside him during other assignments. Word is he is able to apply the same Rugby IQ that made him such a useful player to his coaching techniques and he has the respect and liking of the schoolboys.

Still it’s an interesting choice. Keegan has never been a 1st XV rugby Head Coach while just about every other KZN tier-1 school packs a heavyweight in the equivalent role.

At DHS, highly respected Peter Engledow has head coached the Griquas in the Currie Cup, headed up the elite rugby powerhouse school Paarl Boys’ High where he was Head Coach and coached juniors in the UK.

James Fleming’s star is shining brightest in KZN this year after the brilliant season Michaelhouse just had including the very pleasing depth results illustrated by their teams below A-team level. Like Engledow, he is no stranger to professional rugby coaching arena having worked at both Kings Park and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha. These days New Zealand Rugby and coaches like John Mitchell have him in the contacts list due to his versatility and wide range of skills in the industry.

Hilton Director Greg Miller was once Grey High (Gqeberha) Head Coach and then a Director of Rugby at Grey and Selborne (East London) for a combined 11 years. He’s been a key role player in the Investec International Rugby Academy which amongst other things coaches the coaches. He’s also involved in Sharks juniors high performance coaching.

Northwood Director and 1st XV co-Head Coach Jeremy McLaren worked his way up from KZN tier-2 to earn promotion to the top jobs as Head Coach at Glenwood and then Westville. For a number of years, he’s also been heavily involved at Varsity College rugby who now have an exciting bid to make it to the Varsity Cup. Prior to Covid, Jeremy had overseen KZN’s best rugby performances at Craven Week since theY last won the title ages ago in 1990.

Grant Bell at Clifton has one of those good rugby brains and has been a Head of Rugby for 15 years in total as well as serving as the Westville Head Coach as part of a school coaching career that dates back to 1985.

Saints’ Mzi Nyathi is relative newcomer to KZN and holds the Director equivalent title of Rugby Specialist. He’s been a Head Coach at a school in the Western Cape for 10 seasons where he’s taste a lot of success as the WP u16 Academy Week team. He’s also done a stint of coaching in Kenya.

Hendre Marnitz at Maritzburg College started his coaching career over 20 years ago at the age of 21. He’s had a colourful history which has seen him coach abroad, work the Blue Bulls and joined College from Garsfontein in Pretoria where he was also Director of Rugby.

Glenwood’s Derek Heiberg has a glittering club rugby coaching resume starting with a title-winning season back in 2013 and for many years to come will probably be best remembered for Glenwood’s unbeaten season of 2018 when they finished third in the nation after a memorable last game of the season draw against Grey College of Bloemfontein.

Dusty Noble was a new appointment at Westville in 2022. He spent 9 years at Hillcrest High as their Head of Sport, which included coaching their 1st XV and playing pivotal roles in the Sharks youth week set up which saw him elevated to the top position of Craven Week Head Coach in 2023.

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  1. avatar
    #9 beet

    @Therugbyguy (Comment #8)
    I’d be lying if I said I knew the answer.

    There are so many variations of the positions and important to remember that supplier always outstrips demand. There are also a number of guys who aspire to coach at pro level but those opportunities are few and far between so they have to settle for SBR jobs in the hopes that the door opens for them to move up one day.

    So if I had to venture a guess, a top post where the incumbent is full-time, has to serve as DoR (looking after the whole school) and 1st XV head coach simultaneously and is paid by a body from funds that do not form part of the school’s books – possibly between R80k – R90k pm. That’s the very top end though. Maybe one or two get more because of long service and/or with incentives. I think the average pay in the school industry is a lot lower. Full-time DoR + HC at a well-off school = R50k – R60k pm. The others that split their time maybe get just a small piece of the pie to coach – R10k-R20k pm depending.

    The variations are endless esp for the guys who don’t serve in both capacities – house master, other school duties including classroom, HP Academy on school premises, club rugby coach afterhours, Varsity Cup/Young Guns/Provincial Junior Rugby coaching, summer sport coach at the school, part-time with private business on the side, qualified teacher, qualified S&C coach or biokineticist applying trade at the school.

    Apologies the above applies to all SA, not just Durban as your question asked.

    20 November, 2023 at 20:51
  2. avatar
    #8 Therugbyguy

    @beet (Comment #3)
    For interest sake, what would a DOR/Head of Rugby & HC roughly earn in Durban?

    20 November, 2023 at 02:34
  3. avatar
    #7 beet

    @Skywalker (Comment #6)
    X-factor players make such a big difference

    14 November, 2023 at 22:08
  4. avatar
    #6 Skywalker

    @beet (Comment #4)
    Agree. Northwood is a great example of this. Having had the likes of David Campese and Dick Muir overseeing really poor teams. They cant work magic without the right talent, especially with how professional, big, strong, skilled the boys are nowadays. You need the right combination of course of all factors, but having real rugby boys and even 1 or 2 with x-factor is key to then work with.

    10 November, 2023 at 08:56
  5. avatar
    #5 Smallies

    As long as he remembers that he is working with schoolboys and not senior professionals he will be ok ,he has a hell of a lot of experience to carry over to these boys….

    25 October, 2023 at 13:16
  6. avatar
    #4 beet

    @Skywalker (Comment #2)
    Yeah I was talking to someone about this the other day:
    If you have a budget constraint and have to make an extreme choice between acquiring a good coach or acquiring good players, always always pick the good players.
    Good players will still win a number of games even under a bad coach.
    A good coach will still lose every game if he has bad players.

    25 October, 2023 at 10:31
  7. avatar
    #3 beet

    @KatzRugga (Comment #1)
    From my experience the guys on a good wicket pay wise are contracted to do both – DOR + HC.

    For the benefit of the KC system, I hope they keep the existing 1st XV coaches Neil and Mike (continuity) with KD slotting in as the one who coaches the coaches, works with players and provides other meaningful input. That frees KD up to work with all the other coaches and teams of focus as well.
    His one interview answer was he was not going to “micro-manage” the coaches. Sort of fell short of what style he will employ to improve things. I’d think he has to formulate plans including a common style of play and find ways to work with all the different personalities to make it happen. It does not seem to serve much purpose to let every coach do his own thing. He needs to have the authority and support in the role to dictate if he has to.

    25 October, 2023 at 10:26
  8. avatar
    #2 Skywalker

    Keegan worked with Grant Bashford at Northwood in 2019 as forwards coach for the 1st Team. It was a very successful year for them and I believe he did a great job. Not sure how his u14A Kearsney team went this year?
    I think the biggest challenge Kearsney faces is the inflow of top talent. Things have changed and they need to adapt. Schools have simply become more aggressive and proactive in this space. As an example, with DHS falling out of favour, many of the top sports boys from DPHS began going to Kearsney and the benfitted from this inflow for years ie (all 3 Du Preez brothers, Matt Reece Edwards, James Hall, Tristan Tedder, Sibusiso Sangweni etc). But in the last few years Hilton, Maritzburg College and Michaelhouse have muscled into the DPHS pool, and top players like Thomas Dyer, Nic Hatton (Hilton), Spah Ngobo (MBC) and others, have gone elsewhere. The bottom line is, you can have great coaches, but you need the talent to match.

    25 October, 2023 at 08:53
  9. avatar
    #1 KatzRugga


    Move in the right direction for Kearsney in a star studded tier 1 set up for KZN.
    The big question. Will he be involved hands on for their 1st team this season?
    Going by the stats above all KZN schools need Kearsney to do better to add value on their fixture list going forward!
    25 October, 2023 at 07:04

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