Scotland’s new attack coach AB Zondagh saw enough in Scotland’s “DNA” to prise him away from the European champions Toulouse and link up with Zoom buddy Gregor Townsend.
The pair had linked up during lockdown to compare notes and philosophies when the South African was skills and attack coach with the French and European champions.
When Mike Blair moved on from that role with Scotland to Edinburgh, it seems Townsend knew exactly who he wanted.
“Myself and Gregor had been in contact a couple of times before,” he said. “We spoke over lockdown and shared some information, and tried to learn from each other.
“So, the initial face-to-face was over video. And the relationship just kind of built from there.”
“Then the job came up and I know that they were looking at a couple of candidates, so I think it was the normal process of vetting and in the end there was a decision made.
“For me, it was a very attractive opportunity to go from club to international, which is a different challenge.
“The DNA of the way Scotland have played over the years is something which is very attractive to me as a coach.
“It is a dangerous team who are not scared to play, and that speaks to my DNA as a coach.”
‘I know it’s definitely the right decision’
— News Rugby (@News_Rugby) August 28, 2021
It was a bind to leave such an organisation as Toulouse, but he feels he made the right decision.
“I just feel like this is another challenge, and it’s a big new one for me,” he continued. “Now that I’ve arrived here, I hoped before but I know now that it’s definitely the right decision.
“I’m learning and growing as a coach, and it’s a really, really exciting group of players to work with. I’m really happy to be here.”
There was a briefly strange feeling when the anthems were played on Saturday, but Zondagh has full confidence that the team will grow until they next meet South Africa in the World Cup.
‘We can beat them both’
📆 Lock it in your calendar!
Prepare yourself for a FULL day of Japan rugby this coming Saturday, 20 November 🇯🇵
Autumn test fixtures 👇
🌸 Brave Blossoms v Scotland 🏴
🌸 Sakura Fifteen v Ireland ☘️
Asia Rugby Sevens 👇
🌸 Japan Sevens & Sakura Sevens pic.twitter.com/rF17DD1v6A
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) November 15, 2021
“I’m convinced we can beat one out of the two, in fact we can beat them both,” in reference to other pool rivals Ireland.
“We’ve still got time, and there has been big lessons learned from the weekend. But we can also take a lot of confidence out of the good things we’ve done.
“I don’t think South Africa is going to change the way they play. But we as a team will keep learning, keep evolving and keep getting better with each game we play.
“Because they are so rigid they do have certain weaknesses. But there are also things that you can’t get away from.
“Set-piece and physicality are two things which will always be there. They will always have a massive impact on any match they are involved in. Those are the areas which any team who wants to compete has to at least match up.
“But Scotland is able to mix it up. They can box if they need to, but they can chuck the ball around as well if they need to. This weekend against Japan we will work to a new plan with the aim of winning, but also playing rugby that’s true to us.”
From one end of the spectrum to another
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) November 14, 2021
The contrast between South Africa and the speedy Japanese could hardly be more stark.
“It’s the two far ends of the spectrum,” he said. “We expect a big challenge, but a challenge that we’re up for.
“They have a very smart coaching team so we have to expect the unexpected against them. We definitely must not underestimate them as they’re a very strong side.
“They didn’t put out their full-strength side at the weekend (beating Portugal 38-25). I wouldn’t read too much into that game. We have to concentrate for 80 minutes if we want to win.”