Rennie confirms interest in South African scrum guru as coaching group takes shape

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has confirmed he is pushing to to get potential scrum coach Petrus du Plessis on board but admits it won't be straightforward.

Du Plessis moved on from Glasgow earlier this week and was quickly linked to the Wallabies and Rennie as a potential scrum coach.

The tighthead prop has had a decade in professional rugby, playing for Saracens, London Irish and most recently as a player-coach with Glasgow.

A deal is far from done, with barriers to his appointment on a number of fronts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Du Plessis is a South African and doesn't have a visa to work in Australia, a process which in this current climate could be slow, especially with no upcoming Tests officially scheduled.

With travel restrictions, that makes it all but impossible for him to enter Australia any time soon, and once he did, he would need to observe a quarantine period.

Before planning gets to that point, there is a financial hurdle to jump as well with Rugby Australia's own challenges in that area well-documented.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Junior Wallabies coach Jason Gilmore has been seconded into Super Rugby AU to take over the Waratahs' defence after Phil Bailey's departure.

The Reds elevated analyst Michael Todd to their defence role after contractor Peter Ryan was let go a part of coronavirus cost-cutting.

Rennie confirmed on Friday morning that he was interested in bringing Du Plessis over, with visions of a position that stretched beyond just the Wallabies, but admitted it wasn't going to be easy to arrange.

"I've worked with Petrus, South African extract, played a lot of rugby for Saracens,London Irish, did a bit of coaching there and the last couple of years he's coached up in Glasgow and we've thrown him on the field a couple of times when we've been under pressure but coached in Glasgow for a couple of seasons, he's excellent.

"Outstanding, qualified physio, been involved in strategy and so on.

"He's really innovative and he's such a good man.

"Just really passionate about scrums, often he'd be training with us and run off to a coaching thing at Aberdeen a couple of hours away drive so he's passionate about it and his role, if we get it across the line, would be more than just the Wallabies. Getting around the country and national sides and so on.

"It'd be great if we can get it over the line."

It's a difficult time so hopefully can get it over the line soon, (but I) can't say much more than that."

All are moves to, in part, try and mitigate costs, something that the national body is incredibly conscious of with a broadcast deal and a 2021 competition format still up in the air.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar still looms as an addition to the Test coaching group as forwards coach.

If McKellar does come on board, it is expected he would still remain as Brumbies coach through to the end of 2021, when his current contract is up, juggling both roles.

"It's a bit like Petrus's story really," he said.

:We're working through that process but I think everyone's aware of my feelings around Dan, an excellent coach, top man, would be a great addition to our group.

"You look how dominant they've been in their lineout drive and it's been over the last few years. Ruaidhri (Murphy) probably takes responsibility for that now but Dan's had a big part in it so he'd be a great addition to our group."

Rennie's Wallabies group is beginning to truly take shape with the possibility of October Tests still looming.

Away from the core coaches, Rennie has also engaged a number of his broader staff and said that was critical in his planning.

Former England analyst Warrick Harrington and ex-Japan strength and conditioning coach John Pryor are among the performance staff to join the group in 2020.

"We'll have a very good coaching group - you look at Wisey, he's one of the best in the world around attack, really energetic, really cares, so he gets around the country and the coaches and players love working with him," Rennie said.

"Matt Taylor won a title with the Reds in 2011, done eight years of international rugby as a defence coach, really high quality coach, really top man.

"It's important you've got good people around.

"Then you look at some of the guys from a sport science point of view, Warrick Harrington, John Pryor and Dean Benton involved, they're world leaders. That's exciting, it's going to take us a little bit of time ot get to where we want to get to but we've got good people."

Rennie is settling in Queensland after months of lockdown and quarantine periods in Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.

The Reds take on the Waratahs on Saturday August 8 at the SCG, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo Sports subscription here. The Brumbies take on the Rebels on Friday August 7 at Leichhardt Oval, kicking off at 7:05pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.