Robert “Dick” Muir is the Managing Director of the Investec International Rugby Academy SA. Muir is fondly remembered for his successful tenure as head coach of the Sharks from 2005 to 2007. He also served as an Assistant Springbok coach to Peter de Villiers from 2008 to 2011. Muir kicked-off his professional rugby career in 1987 when he played for the Natal Sharks until the 1996 season. As a player he won four Currie Cup medals (1990, 1992, 1995 and 1996). Muir represented South Africa in 1996 and 1997. He then joined Western Province and the Stormers for two seasons in 1997 and 1998. In 2000, Muir started coaching, with his first job as the head coach of the Tukkies First XV at the Pretoria University.
Rugby15 Editor, Morgan Piek had some one-on-one time with Dick Muir and spoke to him about the Investec International Rugby Academy.
Rugby15: You’ve been out of the limelight since last year’s World Cup in New Zealand…what have you been doing post your role as Springbok assistant coach?
Dick Muir: Since we competed at the last World Cup, I’ve retired from that level of coaching. I’ve just been involved with the Investec International Rugby Academy. What we do there is something that was born out of having gone over to New Zealand in 2007 while I was coaching the Sharks and experienced that the level of coaching was like over there. I realised what a great opportunity we were missing out on in South Africa. It was a case of the best minds in the game sharing knowledge rather than how we operate in South Africa, where we keep everything to ourselves.
When I discussed it with Murray Mexted, he said that every one of the top coaches that have been there from South Africa have realised exactly the same thing and it was badly needed in South Africa. Nick Mallett is an example, just to mention one, so it was my passion to get this into South Africa.
We created a franchise business – there’s a New Zealand, South African and an American franchise. We have the South African franchise, which has been running for nearly four years now.
Rugby15: The Investec International Rugby Academy having a busy period of late with High Performance and Advanced courses for players and coaches. What does the player’ course entail and who will be involved?
Dick Muir: What is basically does, is it’s both for players and coaches. We have about 18 to 24 short courses a year. These courses are held around the country at different levels.
There are three different levels:
• Junior School level – 11 to 13 year-olds and that being accompanied by junior school coaches.
• Senior School Level – 15 to 18 year-olds and that being accompanied by senior school coaches.
• High Performance Level – any player out of school aspiring to become a professional rugby player or any coaches that are either club coaches, first team coaches or are wanting to be professional coaches.
Rugby15: The Coaches Course has a reputation for attracting some of the biggest names in rugby (former and current). Can you name some of the high profile presenters and what they will be focusing on?
Dick Muir: On our last courses we had four Springbok Sevens attending the course. Three were former players and the fourth was the assistant coach. All of them are looking to go into professional coaching. One of the unique things that we do is to harness the skills and knowledge from former players. We take Gary Teichmann for example; he has a lot of knowledge about the eighthman position and also about leadership. We get him in for a short while and get him to part that knowledge onto coaches and players on the course. We do that in every position, so we get a former international in each position to provide specialised training. Typical examples are Louis Koen at flyhalf, Werner Swanepoel at scrumhalf, Brent Russell at wing etc. etc. This ensures that these kids attending the course are given information that they would never been given. There’s an inspirational aspect to that, where you’ve been told by one of the best in that position exactly what that position is all about.
We go through the entire game scrummaging, lineouts, breakdowns, backlines and forwards…every area of the game is covered. There is not coach in the world that is a specialist in every area. For instance – when I am the head coach, I lean more to the backline play, so I need someone to help me out with the forward play.
Rugby15: Since its inception in SA, the IIRA has had great success in assisting players and coaches improve their game while staying on top of the latest trends and developments in the world of rugby. Would you say there is an increasing demand for high performance tuition in South Africa?
Dick Muir: It’s mind boggling to see how coaches on the course go from being just average to being incredibly educated. We evaluate the coaches and they leave the course with a certain level of accreditation.
We’re had a lot parents comeback to us and tell us that the academy has been a life changing experience for the kids. It’s not just rugby tuition that is being imparted. Sportsman often attribute their success to having the right attitude, 90% of it is mental. We do a 100% physical training, we don’t do mental training, yet the mental elements are coming through.
If we ignore coaching in South Africa, we’re going to feel the effects of it on our school rugby system.
Rugby15: Has the Investec International Rugby Academy had any players that have gone onto bigger things in rugby after attending your courses?
Dick Muir: There are, we had five players that played in the recent IRB Junior World Championship. There’s a host of players that are playing Currie Cup and there’s a sprinkling of players that are playing Super Rugby now. Because we have we’re still fairly new, we haven’t had the result the New Zealanders have had thus far. 34% of the current New Zealand Super Rugby players are graduates of the Academy. We’re not at that stage yet, but we’re starting to get there.
Rugby15: Do you have any plans in the near future to return to coaching at Club /National /International level?
Dick Muir: Not at all, I’ve done my bit from a coaching perspective. If I do coach in future, it will be to help out at a club or a school or something like that. I have no desire to coach at a higher level. It was a passion of mine when got into it, it wasn’t a career. The longer you’re into it, the more of a career it becomes.
Rugby15: What did you make of the Heyneke Meyer and Springboks results against England in the test series last month?
Dick Muir: It was a really important start; you want to start off with a winning start from a coaching perspective. He would have learnt a lot from what he saw there as far as what different players have to offer. Having worked with a player you tend to think that is definitely someone I would select. The longer you’re in it; you get more of perspective of where you are and where you’re at. You don’t want to start off on a losing note, because then you’re up against it with the media and public. The start was good; Heyneke Meyer and the Springboks can just build from there.
Rugby15: During the course of the IRB Junior World Championship recently hosted in Cape Town I was in the Cape for the duration of the entire tournament, one couldn’t help but to sense that there as a clear synergy between Dawie Theron and Heyneke Meyer with regards to the future of South African Rugby. What would be your take on that be and what is the significance of being crowned U20 World Champions?
Dick Muir: I think so, when you get those results it catapults you ahead. It is really important that there is a good working relationship between the U20 coach as well as the senior coach. Very often one is doing something vastly different to the other and they don’t work towards the bigger picture. The understanding there is really important.