Hi-tech forward thinker for Boks
NEW Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan describes himself as a "very well-mannered, approachable person" in his CV. For the moment, though, we'll have to take his word for it as his new paymasters, SA Rugby Union, have declared him and other members of Heyneke Meyer's coaching staff off limits to the media.
What we do know with a large degree of certainty is that the 32-year-old Van Graan is untested at the game's highest level. But he comes highly recommended to the Bok fold.
His route to the ranks of the coaching elite is the one less travelled. A Meyer protege, Van Graan represents a new breed of coach who, in the absence of a decorated playing career, has earned recognition and respect through his vision and dedication.
Those close to him point out he has made a career of his passion.
"He is a real student of the game. He's young, so uses technology in a way older coaches don't," observed his former mentor at Afrikaans Hoerskool, Dr Carel Kriek, who is now the principal at Midstream College. "He did just about everything at the Bulls but somehow also managed to stay in the background. He does so much at such a high level that he will be sorely missed."
Van Graan's devotion to his craft has seen him tap into the intellectual property at Barcelona FC, the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots, Boston Red Socks, Saracens, the Waratahs and the Sydney Bulldogs, among others.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate also made his services available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The former Loftus ball boy has set about his dream single-mindedly, getting involved as technical adviser at the Pumas in 2003 when he was only 23.
Kriek has no doubt about the credentials of the son of Bulls chief executive Barend van Graan.
"He will become an exceptional head coach. Guys tend to specialise so much that it is very difficult for a head coach to get everybody pulling in the right direction. You need to be able to work with people. Kitch Christie was like that," said Kriek.
Laaities have to know their stuff if they want to introduce old dogs to new ways.
"In my 12 years as a player I can say with certainty that Johann was one of the very best coaches I have worked with," Victor Matfield cooed in a testimonial.
"Johann is one of the few coaches who understands the game in depth. He started as our forwards coach and it was amazing to have a coach who could challenge me in lineouts."
Another former Bull concurs. "Johann has been the most important coach at the Bulls since 2008," wrote Fourie du Preez. "He has the respect of all the players and he has been influential in most of our lives, especially mine."