Former Proteas coach Eric Simons said that Ottis Gibson’s experience of winning a global event was the decisive factor in being appointed as the new head coach.
Simons, who coached the Proteas between 2002 and 2004 and is bracing himself for a stint as the assistant coach of the Stellenbosch Kings, was on the CSA-convened panel tasked with recommending a coach to the board. He felt that Gibson’s experience of winning a trophy, something that’s eluded the Proteas since 1998, was one of the key reasons behind the West Indian’s appointment.
‘He is going to bring a fresh outlook. He has got a lot of experience now,’ Simons told ESPNcricinfo. ‘He has coached at a number of levels. He has coached West Indies, where he ended up losing his job, and I think in that process as a coach, you end up learning a lot.
‘Ottis is a very detailed coach. We asked a lot of questions about him; what is he like, what is his style is, and we obviously need to marry the relationship, not only with him and the team, but especially with the captain. I think they are going to fit well together from that perspective. Ottis is a good thinker, a good planner of the game and I think that’s what Faf likes. He likes that information.’
The potential relationship with Du Plessis, who was earlier this week announced as captain of the national side across all three formats, was also a factor in the decision-making, with Simons, along with the rest of the panel, including the likes of Gary Kirsten, believing it was going to be a complementary one.
‘It was not just a case of picking the person, you also have to marry what’s needed,’ he continued. ‘We are not far away from an ICC tournament, although it may feel far away. Ottis has been there, he has won a tournament, and he has been part of a professional set-up. So he emerged as the right person.
‘We wanted someone with international experience, someone who is going to bring fresh ideas and look at things from a different perspective. You’ve seen teams that have done that. Mickey Arthur has worked well in Pakistan, Gary Kirsten did it in India, an outsider. Sometimes being able to look at it from a different perspective is refreshing. We have had a really mature and clear-thinking captain in Faf, and I think what Ottis is going to bring to Faf is going to be very good.’
It’s also believed that Gibson was not amongst the initial applicants for the South African job, with Kepler Wessels believed to have had a big say in recommending him to the panel. The applicants, which included the Lions’ Geoffrey Toyana and West Indian Phil Simmons among others, reportedly left CSA unconvinced. As a result the panel missed their deadline by a week, but Simons said it was an otherwise smooth process.
‘It was a very good process. Everybody started on an equal footing,’ Simons said. ‘With coaches, we hire them when we shouldn’t and fire them when we should hire them. Ottis has walked a very good path as a coach. In speaking to him and the players around him, he was very honest about what he has learnt and what he has become. That was a part of it and the other part is that we think he is going to be very good for Faf.’