Sport

ABOVE BOARD

Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher were legally appointed by the former board, CSA admits

From left: SJN ombudsman advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe) | National director of cricket Graeme Smith. (Photo: Bertram Malgas / Gallo Images) | Proteas coach Mark Boucher. (Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
By Craig Ray
09 Feb 2022 16

Cricket South Africa board representatives clarified that national director of cricket Graeme Smith and head coach Mark Boucher were appropriately appointed — by the former board.

In a presentation to Parliament’s portfolio committee on sport, questions were raised about the status of Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher’s positions based on findings in the recently concluded Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings. 

In the final report from those hearings, submitted to CSA last December, SJN ombudsman advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC found there were irregularities in the hiring of the two. 

At Tuesday’s meeting with the portfolio committee, current CSA chairperson Lawson Naidoo exonerated the new board, whose members took up their positions last June, from any fault in Smith’s appointment and his subsequent appointment of Boucher.

“The director of cricket and head coach were appointed in December 2019 under the previous board. It is clear from the [SJN] report that there were irregularities in those processes. Those appointments were subsequently endorsed and ratified by the then board. Our hands are tied in terms of those processes,” Naidoo said. 

The “irregularities” only seem to exist selectively.

Although the board advertised to fill the position of director of cricket, Smith was head-hunted in late 2019 by the board, which at that stage included the then president, Chris Nenzani, and chief executive Thabang Moroe.

Smith made it clear at the time that he felt he couldn’t work with the board, which was mired in controversy. He was finally persuaded to take on the role after Nenzani and other board members aggressively pursued him. 

Naturally, that put Smith in a strong bargaining position, and after receiving reasonable assurances that he would be allowed to do his job without interference, he accepted the role. That’s how head-hunting works.

The final SJN report stated that despite the fact that CSA had advertised the position, Smith’s appointment was a foregone conclusion.

Boucher appointment

One of Smith’s first acts was to appoint the Proteas coaching staff soon before a three-Test series against England. Smith approached Boucher and recommended him as head coach to the board over Enoch Nkwe, who was the interim head coach on the earlier 2019 tour to India.

Smith’s recommendation was made just two weeks before the England series started. Smith also recommended Charl Langeveldt and Justin Ontong as bowling and fielding coaches respectively. All three positions were ratified by the board.

Yet subsequently, Boucher’s appointment was seen as cronyism by some, even though the coach had won five trophies in domestic cricket.

As part of Smith’s mandate, he had the power to recommend a preferred coaching candidate for the Proteas to the board. Smith chose Boucher, who is also a friend and former teammate. No doubt there was some bias, but that’s how trust works.

Smith trusted Boucher as the best candidate for the position of head coach at a difficult time in cricket. The board was in turmoil, sponsors were fleeing, and the Proteas men’s team needed rebuilding. Smith had also played a significant amount of cricket with Ontong and Langeveldt. But those appointments don’t appear to have endured the same scrutiny.

High-performance needs

It’s common practice for directors of cricket/rugby/football to recommend preferred candidates for jobs based on a combination of science, gut and their extensive understanding of the game. It’s the reason directors of sport are in those positions in the first place, otherwise coaches would be selected by human resources departments. 

Quite simply, in a high-performance sporting environment, appointment practices do not mirror those in the corporate world.

If that were the case, Jacques Nienaber would not be the Springbok coach, as he had never held a head-coach position in his entire career before being named Bok head coach in 2020. Under him, the Boks have retained the No 1 world ranking. 

But the SJN findings didn’t appear to consider the unique environment of high-level sport and the sometimes opaque world of trust between senior figures that can build sporting success.

“Mr Smith does not explain how he arrived at the decision of appointing Mr Boucher,” the 235-page SJN report stated.

“There is no mention whatsoever of the CSA HR manual having been applied by Mr Smith and CSA in the appointment of Mr Boucher and other appointments made during that period in question.

“At paragraph 65 (301), Mr Smith highlights Mr Boucher’s success [in] cricket during the latter’s playing days, he does not venture at all to explain the process he followed in appointing Mr Boucher ahead of Enoch Nkwe, who was at that time an interim head coach of the Proteas. 

“That he was not told or advised by the CSA Board, CEO etc to comply with the HR manual when making appointments does not absolve Mr Smith from his responsibility as a senior employee of CSA at the time to comply with its provisions.

“Mr Smith needs to understand that he was handsomely remunerated for his position and professed to possess all the attributes for the position in question, one such attribute is familiarity with governance controls in the organisation.

“That the board did not stop him does not render his conduct regular and excusable.”

Boucher charges

Smith’s contract ends on 31 March and it’s unlikely he will stay on, despite various sources confirming the excellent role he has played. His stature in the game, as a former captain of the world’s best Test team, opens many doors. Smith was instrumental in ensuring India toured South Africa in December and November, which secured R600-million in revenue for CSA.

Smith also holds the key to many current ongoing negotiations, but his departure seems likely, even though he is extraordinarily well compensated. CSA’s new leadership clearly wants to go down a different path.

Boucher has slowly rebuilt the men’s team from rabble to a unit that recently won five out of six matches against India in two formats of the game. But he has been brought up on charges of “gross misconduct” for his role in racial slurs against teammate Paul Adams more than 20 years ago.

Boucher is also charged with poor handling of the Black Lives Matter movement and for allegedly failing to set clear guidelines for Nkwe, who was his assistant coach for 18 months.

The hearing is set for 16-20 May, with Terry Motau SC presiding over the dispute.

CSA was asked by members of the portfolio committee why Boucher and Smith had not been suspended, although none of the portfolio delegation could articulate why they wanted Smith suspended. He hasn’t been brought up on any formal charges by CSA.

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa and the ministry’s director-general, Vusumuzi Mkhize, were also in attendance at the meeting and they steered clear of asking about Boucher and Smith’s suspension as some delegates demanded.

“That [suspending CSA employees] is not a ministerial responsibility,” Mkhize said. “The minister may not deal with employees of the board unless there has been a clear breakdown of governance. We encourage them to move with speed.”

Naidoo also offered some clarity. 

“It’s important to state, and this applies to all the legal processes we are involved in, we will follow due process,” Naidoo told the committee. “I can assure the portfolio committee that the board took legal advice on whether that [suspension] was possible and we received the legal opinion from two senior lawyers.

“They advised us that there was no legal basis to suspend Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith. The board took a unanimous decision not to suspend because it would open us up to unnecessary litigation.”

If there isn’t enough evidence to suspend Boucher, it does raise the question: is this entire exercise nothing more than a search for a scapegoat to offer up as a sacrifice after the publication of the SJN report? DM

 

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All Comments 16

  • It appears that there are people drooling to take over those positions,Let’s call it “trough eating”.The job done by Smith and Boucher has been incredible.What will happen to the collective aura of the team, if they are gone?How will it affect their performance,as they seem to get on very well with their coaches.Winning builds trust.Everybody has an agenda of some sorts but here it seems as it’s more about removing 2 very effective cricketing leaders .This will also have repercussions overseas as real cricketers don’t like political meddling.This will also effect local cricket supporters.Dont change a winning combination that it seems has the support of the Proteas.Mtethwa bungles from 1 cadre deployment to the other,police, arts, sport.Langeveldt and Ontong will also be affected and what if they also leave.This political meddling makes you wanna puke

    • this is such an obvious farce – if it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny. I puke everytime I read anything about SJN – have lost so much weight, I’m totally anorexic now. The previous CSA administration F-ed up cricket before, now the new blokes, supported by Mthethwa , want to do it all over again! It looks like anything that gets built with the help of white people just has to be torn down. the ultimate result – the game goes down, supporters find something else to do with their time and money, and we all lose… And now Mthethwa wants to do the same to other sporting codes… one can only cry for this country

      • Simply loves your style Wilhelm! But what you say is what hundreds of thousands of others think. But my friend, don’t “under-eat” now! This whole saga is just, well, not worth giving up on a potjie, or a lekka braai-tjoppie!

    • …not wanna JC, have done! I understand Smith now will have to re-apply for this job in March when his term expires. My guess, he is going to give them a large middle finger! Bouchy? Who knows? His reputation is already in tatters. Just wish Bavuma wants to speak up! He appears to be the clever one, and diplomatic one, amongst our current players. Time our team starts to throw body punches American football and baseball style!

  • As a passionate Proteas supporter (and all cricket for that matter) I am horrified by the conduct of the Board of CSA. Are there any ex-Internationals on this Board. In fact are their any cricketers at all. With the Minister of Sport being an incompetent ANC cadre one has to guess that Board Members are of the same elk. But I suppose this is South Africa after all…nothing new

    • Well John, Andrew Hudson sits on the Board. But he obvious is like they all are, just a politician at heart. One of the reasons he was just a shadow to Kirsten!

  • Great article, thank you.
    Naidoo & Mtethwa 🤡🤡🤡 CSA is a shambles, witch hunts, politics and greed.
    Smith and Boucher are doing a great job.

  • You say “… in a high-performance sporting environment, appointment practices do not mirror those in the corporate world.” Actually it is not uncommon to see similar circumstances in the corporate world where a senior appoints people that he has worked with before. I have noticed this in a number of instances. Job interviews only tell so much. Experience working with people gives a much better measure of their abilities.

    • Exactly, trust and the ability to execute the strategy agreed by the members of the board are paramount. If Smith had to make an appointment on his own it is only because the HR people and the board were totally disinterested. In any event, it’s taken the board a long time to find enough wriggle room to feel confident enough to take action on this.

  • It is clear that the focus and agenda of CSA is not Cricket. Doing well on the world stage by winning appears to be a non-issue to them. They care about other things which have nothing to do with cricket – that is clear. Any thinking person and cricket lover would realise that you have something very special going on at the Proteas cricket team as they are being successful and they are winning series against highly rated countries and opponents. A person with a brain, who cares about the team being competitive, would hesitate to tamper with anything that could affect this very positive situation. CSA however digs up reasons to dismantle the current situation. I thus conclude that CSA does not care about our cricket team doing well. What they do care about is anybody’s guess. It is very sad!

  • These incompetent cadre clowns with their own agendas interfering in sports administration have almost destroyed sport.
    So much so that I have reached the point “who cares”.

  • Any way that you look at it, it still smacks of pure racial bias, otherwise known as racism. So much for Social Justice and Nation Building. Viva Cadre deployment! Viva!

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
    But everything the ANC cadres do is to ‘fix’ things that work well
    Heartbreaking for the real cricket supporters and players
    Hope they get a snotklap

    • “Snotklap” it is then! Time all sport lovers (and not just Cricket), adopt the same approach! Not very good at it at my age, but will gladly handle the guy once he received a number of those!

  • All this sorry saga amounts to is that those who cant are unhappy with the success and high morale of those who can.
    Success terrifies those who wish to control, because the exceptional expose the weakness of those who fail
    The Proteas have, repeatedly, shown the administrators to be small in mind, heart and ability

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