Springboks Rugby World Cup hero Joel Stransky says South African rugby is rotten from the bottom up and top down and needs radical reform if the current slump is to be reversed.
Stransky’s field goal sealed the 1995 World Cup on home soil in an emotional extra-time victory over the All Blacks and another World Cup triumph in 2007, underlined South Africa’s re-emergence as one of the sport’s superpowers.
However, those heady days are starting to acquire a sepia tinge in the wake of their recent woes.
Last year they lost at home to Argentina and Ireland for the first time, to Japan at the World Cup and followed up with defeat to the Pumas this August during a ragged Rugby Championship.
Things reached their nadir last Saturday with the humiliating record 57-15 capitulation to New Zealand in Durban.
With their next fixture coming against a resurgent England at Twickenham in November, South African rugby is having to face up to some painful questions.
Coach Allister Coetzee, whose four wins from nine games in charge gives him the second-worst win percentage after the dark days of Carel du Plessis in 1997, was quick to blame the country’s domestic system as he tried to explain the crushing defeat and Stransky agrees.
“You cannot look at 2016 in isolation, it is a problem that has been coming for some time and you need to look at the game holistically from grassroots level to the top,” Stransky told Reuters.
“The kids coming out of school do not have the same skill-set as in other countries, or are as well coached. The education system plays a major role in that.
“The next level is where the system really fails, from South African Rugby down.
“The (14) unions are not focused on the Springboks being the best team in the world, they are focused on winning the Currie Cup, winning promotion to the Premier Division or succeeding in Super Rugby.”
Stransky believes the six teams South Africa has in the southern hemisphere championship, compared to the five each of New Zealand and Australia, dilutes playing talent.
“It means players are leaving in droves for contracts overseas, further weakening local teams,” he said. “If you come through that weak system, you become a weak player.”
Stransky also believes the domestic set-up is hamstrung further by a lack of coaching talent at all levels.
“To be frank, in some instances we have got a bunch of inexperienced, amateur coaches leading our top domestic sides,” he said.
“There appears to be no long-term plan, no mentorship and little goes into improving coaching structures. Something needs to change.”