I tip my hat to whoever it was that decided to give the Stormers assistant coaches a run as head mentor as they warm up for the Rainbow Cup.
Listening to skills coach Labeeb Levy’s post-match conference after their defeat to the Bulls last week in his match in charge of the team, I couldn’t help but think about what a refreshing exercise this is.
I guess the plan came from head coach John Dobson and he will be so much richer for it.
Before I get to what Levy said that made an impact on me, I have to mention that, having witnessed his journey from when he first started at the franchise at the end of 2019, his confidence in front of the media firing squad has improved greatly – an improvement that obviously comes with experience in this department.
Anyway, Levy spoke of how they want to transform the Stormers’ approach to a more Capetonian expansive style of play after they converted to a more forwards-orientated game last year.
The skills coach, though, hammered home the point that they have to find the perfect balance in their game, something a head coach has a great appreciation for.
And that’s why it’s important for these assistants to get a dry run as the big boss.
You get to see how the entire puzzle fits together and you are responsible for getting the players to execute the various skills they are taught from the assistant coaches at the right time.
Anyway, what struck me most about Levy was his man-management skills.
Speaking of Damian Willemse, he said: “I came in this week – I’ve known Damian since he was nine years old, since playing beach touch in Cape Town.
“I had a nice heart to heart with him, and said play the way I know you since you were a youngster.
“Also, be smart in certain territories. I’m so happy for the guy – he stepped up, played with confidence, his error rate rate was low, he made good decisions, and he guided the backline well from back.
“People could see his beautiful footwork – and that’s what he was born to do - to play. I’m so proud of him.”
Levy’s approach to Juarno Augustus dropping the ball for the match-winning try against the Bulls was to give the player a hug.
As they would say in Afrikaans, hy is ’n mens-se-mens. And that approach works well when the pressure is not really on.
But if certain mistakes are repeated, there can’t be a buddy-buddy system in place. And that’s why I believe a squad of coaches is so important.
The head coach can’t be the buddy-buddy guy. He has to be the drill sergeant.
Levy, meanwhile, is the man to speak to the players individually and comfort them.
But the harsh reality also has to be hit home if targets aren’t met.
As it stands, Levy has a particular role to play in this squad – the motivator, apart from being the skills coach.
It’s not to say that he can’t be the head coach with a no-nonsense approach, but for now he’s got a big role to play as motivator in the team.
Of his outing as head coach last week, Levy says: “It was an experience – what I did realise is that it’s a different kettle of fish.
“I learnt a lot about myself, a lot about the team, where I need to grow as a coach. I’ll keep on working hard to make everyone proud.”
As far as the team is concerned, once everyone understands what their role is and have realised what their strengths are and where they can benefit the coaching staff, I am sure this management team will only get better.
With Rito Hlungwani having had, and taken, his chance against Griquas before the Bulls game, it will be interesting to see what Dawie Snyman brings to the table this week.
He will have a bunch of Springboks at his disposal for the match against the Lions, but that in itself brings its own challenges.
Vat hom Dawie…