TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
GEOFF Toyana, affable and easygoing and apparently impervious to the pressures that come with coaching a franchise team, is not easily taken aback. But he was: “Me? That’s a shock!”
As Russell Domingo’s star has waned so Toyana’s has waxed. And both among those who are convinced Toyana will succeed Domingo because he is black as well as among those who are adamant Toyana deserves to.
Under Toyana, the Lions have gone from a side who had forgotten what trophies looked like to a team who trip over the shiny things cluttering their dressingroom floor.
They had endured four fruitless seasons when Toyana, less than three months after he was appointed, took them to the 2012 Champions League T20 final. He has since won or shared four franchise titles.
Paul Adams’ name is also out there. Appointed by the Cape Cobras not quite three weeks before Toyana landed the Lions job, Adams has earned five championships.
How about Rob Walter? Since taking over the reins at the Titans in May 2013 – almost a year after Toyana and Adams were unveiled – he has won or shared four trophies.
Then there’s Makhaya Ntini, Zimbabwe’s acting coach. “He’s a legend of SA cricket and he didn’t get the opportunities here,” Toyana said. “He saw going to Zimbabwe as a way for him to step into the coaching environment. We might have missed a trick there.”
Hang on. Domingo has not been fired. Nor has he resigned. As things stand he will be SA’s coach at least until his contract expires 10 months from now.
“It’s been tough for Russell,” Toyana said without prompting. “He’s a great coach and he’s done very well. We don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
But we do know what has happened. SA have slid from first to sixth in the test rankings on Domingo’s watch.
Last week they limped home having lost three of their five completed games in the triseries in the Caribbean, results Domingo said left him “obviously disappointed”.
“We didn’t play well,” he said. “Things didn’t go according to plan.”
Mohammed Moosajee, who has been part of the dressingroom since 2003, at first intermittently as the side’s doctor and since 2008 as their fulltime manager, went further: “There’s little doubt that our performances were below par and below standard for what’s expected for a Proteas team.”
Coming from a solid company man, those are stinging words. They suggest Domingo may yet be made to walk the plank.
Then what? See above. Toyana, Adams or Walter will, no doubt, be only too happy to have a go.
“In the future, yes, coaching SA is something that I aspire to,” Toyana said. “I’m still young in terms of coaching.
“I believe that, as a coach, it is important that you grow as a person. There’s still plenty for me to learn. Every season is a learning phase for me and I’m trying to do so as quickly as I can.”
Hang on again. Who says SA’s next coach will be South African? Says history: of the nine who have done the job Bob Woolmer was the only foreigner. But does nationality matter?
“I don’t think so,” Toyana said. “It’s an international job and any coach who qualifies and has the qualities to do the job can do it.”
That’s true on that level. But what about the level of South African reality?
“It’s tough getting along with the politics of the country,” Toyana said. “Someone who comes in as a foreign coach will have to be educated about that.”
Or the thought of jumping through transformation hoops will seem more difficult than winning, especially as you will be expected to do both equally well. And be paid in a swooning currency.
So, if you were a top notch coach looking for a new gig, would you put your hand up for the SA job? Really?