WORLD Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus’s success has inspired his former teammate, Kennedy Tsimba, to trace his steps back to the professional coaching level as the Free State Cheetahs legend aims to position himself for a role with the Springboks in future.
The former Zimbabwe captain, a World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, last week joined top Varsity Cup side Tuks as an assistant coach specialising in defence, kicking strategies and skills.
Tsimba, who holds the South African record for the fastest player in first-class history to reach 1 000 points, teamed up with Erasmus at Free State in their playing days.
The 45-year-old legendary former fly-half said watching his former colleague guide South Africa to World Cup glory last year in Japan has motivated him to continue honing his skills as a senior-level coach.
“I’ve been inspired to move to the professional level after seeing Rassie win the World Cup with the Boks,” Tsimba told IndependentSport this week.
Tsimba was on the bench for Tuks when the University of Pretoria outfit claimed a thriller on Monday night against North-West University to win the season opener 42-40.
He will leave his post as director of rugby at St Alban’s College in Pretoria to focus fully on his new job with Tuks, who are set to represent Blue Bulls province this year in the SuperSport Challenge competition.
“I’ve joined to assist Nico Luus as I finish up by St Alban’s in the next two months,” said Tsimba, who was the first black person to captain Zimbabwe. “It’s going to help me in finding my feet back into the professional level as a lot has changed. It is extremely high-level now where sports science and pattern details are intricate because you’re working with the best young talent that will play Super Rugby and Springboks in the near future.”
While Tsimba is not the front-man at Tuks, he remarked that a backroom role suited him perfectly in his apprenticeship for possible bigger tasks in world rugby.
“I prefer assisting as it allows me to specialise, which makes the step up to Springbok level more gradual,” he said. “I have already specialised in attack when I was with Cheetahs’ Super Rugby squad in in 2011. Now I will specialise in defence, kicking and skills.”
Tsimba cited the example of new South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber, who has been part of supporting staff for most of his career until landing the big Springbok job.
“Positioning is the new trend in coaching pathways,” said Tsimba. “Jacques was my physio at the Cheetahs for six years. He has never been head coach of any team. He just specialised until the (Boks) opening came up like it has now.”
Nienaber’s promotion to the top Bok job fits into a revised coaching panel in which he reports directly to Erasmus, who will now commit fully to his role as director of rugby.
The predecessor and successor for the Bok job are well known to Tsimba, and the man who was once considered amongst the best fly-halves in the world has high praise for both well-respected figures of South African rugby.
“Seeing the progress of my former teammate Rassie and then Jacques, in the past two years, has inspired me to continue with my coaching journey,” Tsimba said.
“Rassie is very good with analysing opposition defensively, kicking patterns, working with decision makers and game strategies. As for Jacques, he is the best man for the job, for continuity’s sake and experience. When we were at the Cheetahs, he was always helpful and he had a positive mindset, which is important in modern rugby.”
Tsimba said he views the Varsity Cup as a bridge to Super Rugby and the Springboks for both players and coaches, adding that he intends “to be able to pass on my knowledge to aspiring players to see rugby in the same ways as I saw it”.