Kidney's fight to keep forwards coach Smal as Boks come calling
IRELAND are facing a fight to hold onto Gert Smal after the forwards coach was yesterday installed as favourite to take over from Peter de Villiers as South Africa head coach.
Losing Smal, who has been a major success since his appointment in 2008, would be a massive blow ahead of the Six Nations, with reports claiming the South African union (SARU) want Smal as their top man and are prepared to buy him out of his contract.
Stormers coach Alistair Coetzee was the front-runner for the position, but South African media now claim Smal's superior record has swayed the minds of the SARU, who are due to vote on January 27.
Smal guided Western Province to Currie Cup titles in 2001 and '02 and was forwards coach under Jake White when the Springboks won the 2007 World Cup. He was appointed Ireland's forwards coach when Declan Kidney took over the following year and was an integral part of the Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2009.
Later that year, Smal oversaw a superb display from the Irish pack when the then world champion Springboks were defeated at Croke Park, and senior forwards such as Paul O'Connell and Rory Best have spoken repeatedly of the importance of his influence.
However, while the honour of leading his home country would carry considerable allure, Smal recently signed a contract to keep him with Ireland until the end of the 2012/13 season and is happily settled in Dublin.
It would require a significant outlay by the SARU to buy out his contract and there are no indications that Smal is interested in returning to South Africa at this juncture.
"It is not IRFU policy to comment on contract speculation," said an IRFU spokesperson. "As far as we are concerned, Gert Smal is contracted with us until the end of next season and that situation has not changed."
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