It was always going to be messy.
You might conclude, of course, that the appointment of two white males should be less relevant than the fact they were two of the best names in South African cricket, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Smith and Boucher were fated to be judged not only by their pedigree but by their whiteness.
And in Nkwe, Boucher replaced someone who was black and more qualified. Nkwe did not have Boucher’s international career, so he upskilled with a Level 4 certificate. Boucher decided not to bother going beyond a Level 2 (granted to all former internationals), partly because CSA asked him to lecture, without pay, on the same Level 3 course he had been planning to do. As a small taster of the clashes to come, that was a spicy one.
Collectively, that expertise brought South Africa four Test series wins out of eight, two ODI series wins out of eight and five T20I series wins out of 12. Overall, under Boucher, South Africa won as many series across formats as they lost – 11 – but his term will not be judged on numbers or race alone.
Does this all sound exhausting? It must have been.
The task for the new head coach is far from straightforward, because the need to revive a team in transition remains secondary to the imperatives of transformation. The right candidate must not merely be an excellent coach but must understand that providing quality of opportunity isn’t simply about colouring by numbers. Foreign coaches, even those of colour such as Gibson, typically struggle with this.
Whoever comes in cannot be after much money, either. CSA is not flush with cash and the salary of their head coach will not match the sums available in the IPL or county scene. Boucher himself will earn more from his SA20 stint of a few weeks than for a whole year as national head coach.
One thing is for certain: this time they will strive to do it right. The job will be advertised, candidates will be interviewed, t’s crossed and i’s dotted to avoid the chaos that clouded Boucher’s tenure. Because they cannot go through another mess like this one.