Struggling Kearsney turns to Grant Bashford

Former dual provincial sportsman and pro-rugby coach Grant Bashford is rumoured to be the next Kearsney 1st XV Head Coach, starting in the third term of 2024.

Bashford is currently the Clifton College Director of Sport but in school circles he is better known for the work he has done at Northwood School during his several stints as their 1st XV head coach. He was also one of John Plumtree’s assistants during the Sharks coach’s first spell at Kings Park.

2023 was a difficult season for Kearsney and so far the prospects for 2025 are not looking too optimistic. As a result a lot of hopes were pinned on the 2024 1st XV to reproduce the excellent results achieved as u16A’s in 2022 under dedicated head coach Neil van Heerden.

After a bright start to the 2024 season, hard times descended upon the One-Stripe and they now have the longest losing streak of all tier-one schools in the country.

Making it a hard pill to swallow is that for the first time in their history, the college has a Director of Rugby in the form of Keegan Daniel, who given his title should have been at the forefront of trying to ensure the season stayed on track.  However little surrounding his appointment or title makes sense. He’s never been a 1st XV head coach, he has limited experience and then he took charge of the u16A team instead of making the 1st XV a priority. It feels like he’s going to have to learn on the job and it may come be at the expense of much sought after wins.

He didn’t appoint himself and even the most frustrated of supporters would dearly like to see him succeed. Nevertheless under the circumstances Kearsney needed a seasoned coach with a mile long CV and a proven track-record like just about all their main rivals in KZN have employed on a full-time basis. And all those guys seem to be contributing towards the 1st XV in a big way.

So now Bashford who definitely has the credentials of a Director of Rugby may have to be the mentor as well if/when he joins. He worked with Daniel at Northwood that way around (and they get on really well).

There is no shortage of compliments for Bashy in the industry. He is respected as a coach and liked a lot as a person. No doubt he will be able to hit the ground running. If there is one worry, it’s his staying power. He’s bailing on the Clifton job after just a few months. In a long period of following school rugby, he’s an extremely rare case of a 1st XV coach who left midway through the season, when he said goodbye to Northwood to take up a pro job in Russia (alongside Dick Muir). He returned, got his Northwood post back and left a few seasons later to work in Japan as a pro coach.

THE DAYS OF A FULL-TIME TEACHER BEING A HIGH SCHOOL 1ST XV HEAD COACH ARE NUMBERED

Kearsney are one of the last tier-ones to have a full-time teacher as a first team head coach. Chatting to those actively involved in school rugby who have served in both capacities, they say it is now asking too much to perform both jobs well. Something simply has to give to be able to do the 1st XV coaching justice. Matters made even harder at Kearsney where the academic standard is so high. Full-time commitment to coaching seems to be the defined future of schoolboy rugby. Maritzburg College still has a teacher/coach whose classroom workload has been reduced and surprise, surprise their heavyweight Director of Rugby is hands on, playing a big part in coaching their 1st XV. Plus he still manages to get through all the other work commonly associated with a DoR post. These duties vary from school to school but are commonly defined as:

1) streamlining/aligning of coaching from u14 to opens towards a shared goal/vision
2) upskilling coaches
3) talent identification and ‘recruitment’
4) engaging with other stakeholders such as parents, senior management
5) fighting fires!

Interestingly Bashy himself is facing the same double responsibility challenges. At Clifton he has a full teaching timetable. Then on top of this he serves as Director of Sport there.  The latter is a full time job on its own – seven days a week! This is the reality of how school sports at a tier-one level needs to be run nowadays.

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25 Comments

  1. avatar
    #25 KatzRugga

    SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM PLANS FOR KEARSNEY

    Seems an exiting appointment and show of intent by Kearsney for the long term.
    Wonder what Kearsney might do for the short term, 1-3 years, as after yesterday’s show against Westwille it is very clear that Kearsney rugby is at a state where avoiding loosing a game to St. Charles and Clifton (again) is the current benchmark.
    Watching on Supersport it is also very clear that what used to be KZN’s finest grass blanket and field is by now hardly a top 30 rugby field. Maybe there’s more that needs ‘fixing’ in regards to overall facilities!
    ReplyReply
    12 May, 2024 at 08:45
  2. avatar
    #24 Tang

    @beet (Comment #17)
    Good points Beet. PBHS are very fortunate. They have a high level of full fee paying parents and are surrounded Afrikaans speaking schools.

    I find it sad how we are equating a good school with rugby results. Isn’t a good school all about balance and raising youngsters who can thrive in later life?

    ReplyReply
    9 May, 2024 at 12:56
  3. avatar
    #23 Skywalker

    Just a correction and note on Bashy’s time at Northwood. He joined at the end of 2013 from what I can find and coached the 1st team from 2014 – mid 2017 season. He then went to Japan on a short stint and returned to coach the 1st team from 2018-2021. In 2022 he was set to still be head coach when he got the offer from Dick to join him in Russia.
    So he did have 2 stints of 4 years at a time. The reality is however that for any of these coaches, if a provincial or national opportunity came up, they would no doubt take it. It’s what they work towards.
    I would think unless Plumtree wanted him back in the fold at the Sharks he could put in a number of years at Kearsney. I think to be fair his role at Clifton was not coaching and not involved only with rugby, and so perhaps this is just a better fit and a return to what he really enjoys. Kearsney have a job of work to do, but if he is given the support from Keegan and Waylon I am sure they could slowly turn things around. NW did it, Michaelhouse did it, DHS did it. Will be interesting to see how it goes…

    ReplyReply
    9 May, 2024 at 12:03
  4. avatar
    #22 Dixon’s

    I was never a fan of KD as a player. he was massively overrated, gave away so many penalties that cost the Sharks dearly. did one or two flashy things per game but did nothing else for the other 75mins. i really think KC hired him for his name only, i dont think he is going to add much on field value.

    ReplyReply
    9 May, 2024 at 12:03
  5. avatar
    #21 beet

    @KES Oldboy (Comment #16)
    Jeppe’s Drickus is a full timetable teacher as well. And surprisingly so is Carl Spilhaus the Director of Rugby

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 20:54
  6. avatar
    #20 OUD ANKER

    @Tang (Comment #5)
    Affies head coach Ruan Jacobs also full time teacher at the school and as you know Erlo Rust at PBHS as well.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 20:24
  7. avatar
    #19 beet

    @Tang (Comment #15)
    It will be interesting to find out how Carl Spilhaus contributes towards the Jeppe 1st XV now that his DOR only.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 20:19
  8. avatar
    #18 beet

    @KES Oldboy (Comment #16)
    Yeah its crazy to think that Marco of KES, one of the youngest 1st XV head coaches period, has a full teaching timetable

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 20:09
  9. avatar
    #17 beet

    @Tang (Comment #5)
    The pressure is felt at all levels and when things are not going well on the rugby field, unhappy people have a habit of finding fault in areas other than rugby as well.
    Everyone’s life is happier when the 1st XV is winning, from
    the headmaster, to the coaching staff, to the players and most importantly the hard to please old boys and the loud mouth parents.
    But the hard to please old boys and the loud mouth parents are not the only ones contributing to the pressure.
    Schools are in serious competition with each other for more than just rugby wins to please the supporters and help with school spirit.
    For example in many parts non-fees-payers are a serious concern. Some schools operate at 50% or below. Anything to gain an advantage in an area of interest to attract fees-payers helps. Other schools are not full. Positive news that helps gain an enrollment advantage helps. So many factors.
    Pretoria BH is in a privileged position. Seemingly the only viable English medium state boys high school in Pretoria. I sure if there was a second similar school in the city, it would have drastically changed the PBHS approach to rugby.

    10-15 years back high schools had the opportunity to create regulations for SBR via a set of rules that promote wholesome compo and practices surrounding SBR. Instead it was everyone for themselves. No cooperation. Now look how much they are spending on SBR and in many cases these huge amounts just ensure they just keep up, it does not get them ahead.

    For example one thing that schools via their SGB’s or rugby committees do that they cannot blame on any outsiders is offer pro coaches 3-year contracts at a time. If they want to change the culture, start by committing to 7-year contracts. 3-years suggests the coach has to adopt a win at all costs on some level. 7-years would mean he does not have immediate worries about things like keeping his CV updated, moving house, relocating his kids to a new school, his wife finding a new job in a new towm, all stuff that is a reality for some and is born out of fear of not getting a contact extension.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 19:47
  10. avatar
    #16 KES Oldboy

    @Tang (Comment #7)
    Both of the KES 1st team coaches are full-time teachers.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 19:32
  11. avatar
    #15 Tang

    @wanza_15 (Comment #9)
    I think he (Drikus Venter) still has a full teaching load.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 19:23
  12. avatar
    #14 Crashball

    @Coolguy (Comment #10)
    Don’t be overwhelmed by well-known names
    Aside from Bashie, the other big names are ex pro players and good ones at that but as we’ve seen loads of times, that doesn’t translate into quality coaching…certainly not out the gates.

    If I were them, Bashie would be my DoR and a coach to the coaches…the fruits will be seen in 3 to 4 years time

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 18:13
  13. avatar
    #13 Grasshopper

    @RuggaFreak (Comment #12)
    Westville are on a big drive to engage OBs, I know as most of my mates are WOBs, building & buying houses for more boarders.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 16:31
  14. avatar
    #12 RuggaFreak

    @Grasshopper (Comment #8)
    This could be true. Many boys from last years Dale superstar 13A team are at Westville.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 14:31
  15. avatar
    #11 Skywalker

    @Coolguy (Comment #10)
    I saw the results of MHS vs Hilton, and out of 20 games, MHS won 16 and drew 1, losing only 3. That is a major turn in fortunes compared to results from only a few years back. I would think from what i recall, that those results could almost be a complete reversal from say 2019. Considering Covid robbed us of 2020 and 2021, the last 2 years have seen a big shift for MHS. Great to see. I know there is a new 1st XV coach, but what has made the change? Hilton will now be chasing you.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 14:02
  16. avatar
    #10 Coolguy

    DOUBLE EDGED SWORD

    I am impressed on the calibre of coaching staff the school currently has. Including another feather in that cap, will it bring results, or does the school need to rather invest their capital at grade 10 recruits nationally. I fear that the pool of national talent however is under huge strain from others already sweeping.
    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 13:04
  17. avatar
    #9 wanza_15

    @Tang (Comment #5)
    Not sure what the story is now but when I left Jeppe, Mr Spilhaus was a full time History teacher for matrics (and some grade 11s) and was the 1st XV head coach. This was 2017.
    I know that now Mr Spilhaus is sort if an MIC that looks over all of the rugby operations at Jeppe, he doesn’t sit on the bench anymore.
    The head coach now is a guy called Mr Venter – Drikus Venter.
    He has come through the ranks at Jeppe, really breathes rugby as well but as of 2017 he was a full time Maths teacher, coaching the u16A team. Taught Maths and Maths Lit for Grade 11s and Matrics. I wonder how it is now , would be very interesting to know.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 12:11
  18. avatar
    #8 Grasshopper

    @Tang (Comment #7)
    Keynesian economics. I heard a stat recently (via the grapevine) that Westville gave out 80 bursaries last year, not all 100% but that is like a third of the year on a bursary. The first 100% ones go to swimmers as they have to protect their unbeaten record, then rugby, cricket, hockey etc. There are even some B team swimmers on bursaries. Unless a school has a billionaire old boy or few funding this it’s unsustainable. Maybe you guys should tap up Elon again. Unfortunately Glenwood as not in this league and will just drift off the pace of the years. We are a middle income family school. The cost to Kearsney for those three coaches alone must be circa R6m.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 10:37
  19. avatar
    #7 Tang

    SUPPLY AND DEMAND

    @Grasshopper (Comment #6)
    @Grasshopper – It is one of the scariest prospetcs. There is not an infinite supply of talent. When supply becomes limited, what happens to price? The more talented players are going to start demanding more and more. If recruitment is the new norm, can you imagine how many offers a talented young teenage boy will receive?
    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 10:01
  20. avatar
    #6 Grasshopper

    @Skywalker (Comment #4)
    Gosh, so three ‘rugby’ men together, must cost quite a whack. Kearsney obviously battling to attract the best rugby players with all the competition from other schools. They obviously want more paying parents to pay the staff, so less bursaries. The Glenwood vs Kearsney game coming will be the traditional schools wooden spoon match. Clifton and St Charles are in this group too…

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 09:40
  21. avatar
    #5 Tang

    WHO ARE THE OTHER SCHOOLS WITH A FULL TIME TEACHER BEING THE HEAD COACH?

    Parents and Old Boys want instant success! Imagine the pressure on the boys.
    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 09:28
  22. avatar
    #4 Skywalker

    @Grasshopper (Comment #2)
    Waylon still there. Waylon is Director of Sport overall. Keegan is Director of Rugby. Bashy will be 1st Team Coach it seems. If they are clever they will use him to upskill some of the other coaches as well, or mentor them, but I presume the focus will be on him taking charge of the 1st team.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 08:56
  23. avatar
    #3 Crashball

    Bashie is a rugger man through and through and super competitive and after his Clifton appointment, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would be happy there due to the state of their rugby program, despite him being positive when we chatted.

    I think it’s a great appointment for Kearsney – I hope, for Bashie’s sake, that he has the quality players to work with. I think their juniors are very good so he needs to hang in there. (That said, if a pro coaching gig comes his way, how could he turn it down?)

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 08:18
  24. avatar
    #2 Grasshopper

    What happened to Waylon Murray?

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 07:36
  25. avatar
    #1 Skywalker

    Woah, big news. Bashy did great things at Northwood for their rugby programme, and brought Keegan into the coaches box in 2019 if I recall. After a dismal season for the Kearsney boys, he and Waylon I presume have hit the SOS button. I am surprised because Bashy has only been at Clifton for a few months, but clearly it is an enticing enough offer.

    Looking at the results vs NW this past weekend, the challenge as always is to get a strng pipeline and not just be able to coach the 1st team well.

    ReplyReply
    8 May, 2024 at 07:19

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