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Henry in Pumas' corner shows coaches transcend nationality


Spiro Zavos

THE main Wellington newspaper, The Dominion Post, had a killer photo on its main sports page this week. There was Sir Graham Henry, knighted for coaching the All Blacks to last year's Rugby World Cup victory, standing arm-in-arm in a circle of Pumas players wearing Pumas training gear. There could be no clearer evidence that Henry has moved from a consultant to the Pumas to being an integral part of the Pumas' coaching staff as the team, playing in their first Rugby Championship, take on the formidable task of defeating the All Blacks and the Wallabies on their home soil.

Last week in the Herald, I argued the attacks on Wallabies coach Robbie Deans specifically because he was a New Zealander and, therefore, a person incapable of having his heart in defeating the All Blacks was xenophobic nonsense. In the era of professional rugby, ''career trumps nationality''. There was strong support for this argument. But there was, also, some savage (to put it mildly) continuing ranting about Deans being an All Blacks stalking horse. One respondent, a lawyer, even suggested Deans was still on the pay of the NZRU. I pointed out to him he was incorrect. It also involves a total misunderstanding of the role of coaches for national sides in the professional era.

Jake White, the coach of the Springboks when they won the 2007 World Cup and now the Brumbies coach, has told the Wallabies forwards they have to start making the hard yards against the Springboks tonight. And there is unanimous agreement in New Zealand that Henry's presence, possibly in the coaching box tonight, will disadvantage the All Blacks. He knows their game well and he knows (possibly more importantly) their weaknesses. He also brings a great deal of intellectual property based on a long career of successful coaching at all levels of the game with him to the Pumas. In fact, Henry is not the first All Blacks coach who has become involved in the coaching of the Pumas. Alex Wyllie took over as coach of the Pumas between 1996 and 1999 after his highly successful All Blacks career as a player and coach.

This week, Warren Gatland, another New Zealander, followed a path first walked by Sir Graham when he was appointed head coach of the British and Irish Lions for their 2013 tour of Australia. Gatland has made it clear his ultimate ambition is to coach the All Blacks. But this did not stop Lions chairman Andy Irvine from making the point Gatland had ''earned his badge of honour'' as coach.

The real point about the various coaches of the various national sides is not their nationality. Their record as coaches is the issue. Gatland has the Lions job because he has been the most successful coach in European rugby. It is this imperative that nothing succeeds like success that should determine the fate of coaches.

Which brings us to tonight's Test in Perth. Heyneke Meyer, in his first season as Springboks coach, has presided over three Test victories and two draws - against England and the Pumas. There has been considerable concern in South Africa about the stale and out-of-date tactics adopted by the Springboks this season. The Wallabies have lost to Scotland, won three Tests against Wales and lost two to the All Blacks. Here, too, there has been widespread concern about the quality of the Wallabies play.

A cartoon yesterday in a local newspaper showed Henry and a Pumas player carrying a sack of dollars. Henry is saying: ''Hand on heart, I'm only in it for the love - where is my bag of love.'' The cult of the coach can be lucrative. But as Meyer or Deans or Henry will find out this weekend, their teams have to be winners for the cult to flourish.

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all

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