Jaco Van Der Merwe
Head of Motoring
3 minute read
5 Jul 2017
3:14 pm

Grass perfectly green in Mzansi meadows

Jaco Van Der Merwe

Isn’t it funny how often we perceive things to be better elsewhere based purely on the assumption that South Africa is always behind the rest of the world?

Take athletics for example. When I see an elite American runner, I automatically assume this athlete is the product of this highly-advanced training programme armed with scientific marvels ranging from medical data analysis to state-of-the-art training facilities.

The same goes for swimming, where you would naturally think someone competing at college level in the States would be better off than anything Msanzi has to offer. Same goes for tennis, golf … you name it. Think of football, in which we perceive a player must surely be better off landing a contract in Europe than he would be staying in the local leagues. It was therefore only natural that I got all excited when Eddie Jones was appointed as Stormers Super Rugby coach for the 2016 season.

Not that I’m a Stormers fan by any means, but I felt the wily Aussie could give South African rugby a much-needed new direction after a dismal 2015 season. By transforming the Stormers, other teams would hopefully follow suit only for the Springboks to benefit in the long run.

To be fair I didn’t really think my wish was anything more than a pie in the sky. But it actually panned out exactly the way I thought and it didn’t involve the Stormers or Jones’ hand. With the Aussie opting out of his Stormers tenure after only a few weeks to go and coach England, it wasn’t a bigname overseas bloke with a massive pedigree at all who drove my envisioned revolution.

Good ol’ local former lock Johan Ackermann was the one who lit the fire in 2016 by taking the Lions to new heights. Forget about the Springboks last year and look how they were transformed when the core of the team was made up by Lions players fresh from their awesome run in Super Rugby.

In the first round after the June break, it was evident how fabulously confident not only the Lions returning from the victorious Bok camp looked, but what a boost his international success was to a guy like Bulls centre Jan Serfontein. Exactly what I had wished for, all under the watch of humble local named Ackers whose good work has since seen him being lured to Gloucester.

And he’s not the only one beating the local drum. Two fully homegrowns, Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, have won six Olympic medals between them, the same number as Penny Heyns, Roland Schoeman, Ryk Neethling, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend, who all came through the American college system, put together.

Take a look a cricket and one South African, Nic Pothas, has just taken over Sri Lanka’s reins from another one in Graham Ford. Not to mention Mickey Arthur, who coached the Proteas and Australia and has just guided Pakistan to the Champions Trophy title, a feat only bettered by Gary Kirsten who took India to World Cup glory.

And the world record holder in the 400m for men doesn’t belong to a sleek American, but to Wayde van Niekerk, who is coached by a grandmother, Tannie Ans.

After training with Usain Bolt, Van Niekerk even declared: “His environment is no different to ours. Why not achieve what they can?’’ It’s time we all adopt that mindset.