Whilst the Northern Hemisphere is gearing up for the Guinness 6 Nations kicking off at the end of the month, all of us down South have a while to go before we see our Nations battling it out in the Incoming Tours and later in the Rugby Championship. All four of the Championship sides have undergone coaching changes since the Rugby World Cup ended in October, some more so than others. I however can't contain my excitement at the prospects of seeing Rassie, Razor, Joe and Filipe Contepomi leading their sides into battle.
Whilst rugby's main focus is on the players and what happens between the four white lines, there can be no doubting that quality coaches, with big personalities only add to the spectacle and grow interest in the game. Its impossible to be universally liked, but good engagement with the media and the fans has become a crucial element to ensuring the side is well supported. The coaches in charge now, will certainly deliver some stellar moments over the next four years.
By now Rassie is a well known quantity, with his toned down banter on X, he keeps the SA public laughing and his opponents a little frustrated. We're now adding Razor to the mix as he takes over the All Blacks coaching gig and his slick dance moves and quick wit will add a new dynamic. Michael Cheika has left Los Pumas who will now be headed up by the much loved Filipe Contepomi who has been in the Argentinian coaching set up since 2015, barring his stint as Defence coach for Leinster. We are now, as of today, adding in the no nonsense Joe Schmidt as head of the Wallabies and I am sure he is going to breath some life back into the rugby down under.
Although Rassie is the newly appointed coach of the Springboks, a role he has previously held and in many ways never left, he has some solid adversaries coming his way now. The four head coaches are all more than competent for their roles and it will be up to the unions and the players now to come to the table. There is a Southern Hemisphere World Cup on the way and we need the guys to do well across the board.
I certainly can't be the only one feeling quietly optimistic about what is to come. The road between 2019 and 2023 was a rocky one for many. First traversing the mess that was the Covid pandemic, then the coaching shake up at the Wallabies, the All Blacks almost firing Fozzie, the collapse of Super Rugby and lack of domestic competition for Argentina and the lost game time that accompanied it. It was far from ideal.
Worse than the above though was the dominance of the North in this cycle. Italy secured a win over the Wallabies, Ireland won their first tour in New Zealand. Wales won their first test in South Africa, it was hard to watch at times. This is where my optimism comes in now. I don't foresee the North having quite the dominance they did this time around. The quality heading up each of the four nations is undeniable and I am expecting big things from them.
With the World Cup being hosted in Australia in 2027, I am already willing to put my money on a Southern Hemisphere side to take it, there is a lot going right heading into this year and if nurtured properly will ultimately lead to more Northern heart break in the years to come. Bring on 2024!
For now the main focus will be the British & Irish Lions Tour in 2025, but there is the Irish tour to SA in July, Wales touring Aus, the English visiting the Kiwis and Les Bleus heading to Argentina to take on Los Pumas to look forward to.