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.
THE HEAVYWEIGHTS OF KZN
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.