South Africa will have a new head coach from the beginning of September, with at least five local contenders lining up to replace Russell Domingo after his contract expires.
Cricbuzz has established that Domingo has not re-applied for his position after months of uncertainty, making South Africa’s four-Test series in England his final assignment with the Proteas. A five-man panel set up by Cricket South Africa (CSA) to recommend a replacement has begun interviewing candidates, which include franchise coaches Geoffrey Toyana and Malibongwe Maketa, former Titans coaches Rob Walter and Richard Pybus, as well as current South Africa A coach Shukri Conrad. West Indian Phil Simmons, who has coached Ireland and West Indies, is also thought to have applied.
The panel tasked with determining the best candidate for the job is made up of three CSA board members – Norman Arendse, Rihan Richards and Oupa Nkagisang – and two former South Africa coaches in Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons. Their job appears to be complicated by South African cricket’s divergent goals.
While the main objective is ostensibly to find a coach capable of overcoming South Africa’s big-tournament hex at the 2019 World Cup as well as improve the Test team, there is also a strong push from some quarters to appoint a black African to the post for the first time. The matter is complicated further by the need to keep South Africa’s best players on board – particularly after AB de Villiers confirmed on Sunday that the identity of the new coach would have a bearing on his international future. Domingo enjoyed widespread support from the South African squad, with both de Villiers and Test captain Faf du Plessis saying publicly that they wanted him to stay on beyond August.
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in April that “good governance” and “due process” were behind the decision to advertise the post, with Domingo’s contract having already been renewed three times, but subsequent events have hinted that was not necessarily the case. Domingo is known to be upset with the poor level of communication from CSA on the issue, suggesting that there was either a level of incompetence on CSA’s part, or more likely a genuine desire to seek out other options.
Of those who are known to be in the running, Pybus is the most experienced while Toyana and Walter have the best recent records in South African domestic cricket. Pybus coached Pakistan to the final of the 1999 World Cup, won six trophies in four years at the Titans during a period when Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Faf du Plessis emerged, and recently finished a three-year period as director of West Indies Cricket. He is also in the running for the job of India coach.
Walter won four trophies in three seasons with the Titans before seeking out a fresh challenge in New Zealand last year, when he was appointed head coach of Otago. He cited the fact that he was unlikely to become Proteas coach any time soon as one of his reasons for leaving South Africa. Walter’s pessimism was partly due to the fact that Toyana was seen as the heir apparent, given his success with the Lions up until the 2015-16 season, and CSA’s desire to appoint a black African coach.
The 43-year-old Toyana describes himself as a product of transformation, but he also has a record of helping black African players reach the top level of the game. Kagiso Rabada, Temba Bavuma, Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie have all debuted for the Proteas during Toyana’s time at the Lions, where he has won four titles in five years since becoming the first black African franchise coach. Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris, Stephen Cook and Dwaine Pretorius have also made the step up during Toyana’s tenure, although it is worth noting that Bavuma, de Kock and Morris have all preferred to move elsewhere in recent years.
Maketa has coached in South African domestic cricket for years, having won several titles as Northerns head coach and served as Pybus’ assistant at the Titans during a trophy-laden spell. He has been in charge of the Warriors since December 2014, but is yet to win silverware with the franchise.
Conrad coached the Lions in the first season of South African franchise cricket in 2004-05, and won three trophies in five years at the Cobras before his dismissal in 2010. In April 2014 he was named head coach of the CSA Academy, and took charge of the South Africa A side for their recent tour of England, where they lost all but one fixture, which was against a second-string Hampshire side.
In the search for a new coach, there is a notable absentee. In January, a review into the national team recommended the appointment of a director of cricket who would oversee the Proteas with ultimate accountability on all issues relating to their performance. That position, which would theoretically involve seeking out preferred candidates for the coaching job, is yet to be created or filled.