This has been a question on the lips of many South African rugby fans as they became aware of the absence of Naas on TV. As usual the rumour mill started and some assumed Naas was axed because of the Ashwell Willemse saga.
The truth is, that in March, South African rugby legend Naas Botha took over the job as the head coach of the Indian men and women’s rugby teams
Within a few months he has got the women’s team scrumming into his coaching methods.In only their second international 15s game, India beat Singapore.
The 61-year-old, via email, answered Pranav Shahaney’s questions on his plans for making rugby an “Indian sport”.
What were your first thoughts on taking the job and what were you looking to achieve in the shorter term?
The most important thing for us was to find out strengths and weaknesses of players, inculcate a positive attitude and ensure that players loved the sport and loved going into training each day. I think we achieved that.
Success was secondary and we knew it was always there along the line if we managed to lay a platform first. We had camps in different parts of the country to gauge talent and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of players.
Some even seem like they can turn into fantastic international rugby players. However, I also spotted a number of positions we need to find better players for. It’s important to broaden the player pool and I’m looking to bring big and tall players into the team.
Team captain Vahbiz Bharucha attributed the success against Singapore to the overall attitude of the players. How impressed are you with the mentality of the national team?
Player attitude is probably the most important thing in making a team successful. As coaches, our job is to create an environment they enjoy, but they’re the ones that are out there on the field giving it their all.
There still are a lot of things we need to learn, but we’ve started off on the right foot. The main goal was to get them through June with success and I think that we’ve achieved that. Now the plan is to assess Indian rugby and take it further.
This first win could certainly have given you and Rugby India a platform to build something sustainable for the longer term. What are your plans going forward?
A number of schools are playing rugby today. The main aim is to turn 7-a-side rugby into 15-a-side in a few schools across the country. Right now, 800 schools are playing 7-a-side rugby. Even if 50-100 of them start their own 15-a-side there’ll be a vast difference and suddenly the pool of talent will also increase.
I will also speak to the board at the end of July and discuss my plans with them. That is when I will clearly be able to say what I really want.
Everybody must contribute to make India a better rugby nation. There is a population of 1.3 billion people, so I’m sure we can make a team of 15 really competitive players. Yes, there will be a little bit of work from everyone. We can’t be successful and stay on cloud nine for too long. It’s all about building on our success.
What are you looking for – from players, the board and the rugby season, as a whole?
I need players that look forward to training and who actually enjoy playing the game. I think they have enough knowledge of the game now and a number of them even go into games thinking we have a realistic chance of winning.
We’re looking to work on their fitness and their skills as you need to reach a certain level before you can compete against the top teams internationally. We need to play more internationals.
Ideally, I believe we should at least play 10-12 of them per season. I know it’s a high number, but it’s something that needs to be done.
There are a number of issues we need to address and we’re working collectively to do just that.
Interview source – CLICK HERE
It seems Naas is enjoying his new role and maybe this is the start of a successful coaching career. We wish Naas all the best!
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