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'I don't think I will be so aggressive as a coach'

Titans' new coach Mark Boucher on how his coaching style will differ from his playing style

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Mark Boucher trains during South Africa's practice session, Centurion, October 17, 2011

"I understand the dynamics of the country I live in. If I didn't feel I had the character to manage some of the different scenarios that may come up, I would not have taken the job"  •  Getty Images

There was a time when Mark Boucher did not get militant about the outcome of the match. Seven times, actually. All of them are recent.
Boucher was consulting with Kolkata Knight Riders at the behest of his friend Jacques Kallis, who is also the team's mentor, and the team lost. Six times in the league phase and then in the Eliminator match, which knocked them before the final.
"I was quite surprised to see that I didn't get as tense when the team was losing as I used to get when I was playing. I didn't get too emotional. I was quite calm and relaxed and I just made myself aware of what the reasons were and what the situation was," Boucher said.
That's when Boucher realised he could be a coach.
He had spent the previous four years, since his injury-enforced retirement in mid-2012, immersing himself in other projects, most notably wildlife conservation. He put cricket on the back-burner as he tried to build a life as a retired professional sportsperson.
"I wanted a few years off and I did that with the rhinos stuff. After that I wanted to be able to give back to the game. I suppose I never completely [went away] because I was always involved in some commentary or this and that. But I got to the point where I felt I needed a challenge in my life," he said. "The KKR thing pushed me to try and get into coaching."
In August, when Rob Walter resigned from Titans to take up an offer in New Zealand and talks with Dale Benkenstein, the Hampshire coach who has returned to South Africa, broke down, Boucher was approached. He accepted the job, for which he will move from Cape Town to Pretoria - a little like going from Sydney to the outback - to take up one of the highest-profile jobs on the domestic circuit.
Titans are an outfit known for excellence, and a season without silverware is rare for them. They also regularly produce and nurture international talent. It was surprising for them to appoint Boucher, who only holds a Level Two coaching qualification by virtue of playing Test cricket, and who had no prior coaching experience apart from the KKR consulting stint. The immediate reaction in the local media bordered on outrage. Questions were raised about why a more qualified candidate was not sought out and why Mandla Mashimbyi, Walter's assistant, had not been promoted.
"It's all about man-management. Some players need some love and some players need to be told when they are stepping out of line"
"I can't be worried about what people are writing. I would never have taken the job if I didn't think I could add value," Boucher said. But he has promised that the bulldog spirit he was known for during his playing days is not going to make a return in his coaching.
"I am a completely different person now to what I was as a player. I was quite feisty and hard, but that's the way I thought I had to be. When you are playing, you pick a road and go with it if you think it will get the best out of you. The eye injury really changed me. It knocked the wind out of my sails. I will always have that competitive edge, but I don't think I will be so aggressive as a coach. The new styles of coaching are all about building up confidence."
Having spent the latter part of his career playing under Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton, Boucher has been influenced by their methods, but he does not intend to copy them. Instead, he is looking to combine the various techniques he experienced as a player to form "the Mark Boucher coaching style". Think a hybrid of Ray Jennings' discipline, Kirsten's care and Upton's creativity.
"It might not be as aggressive as what people will expect but I will still go at it as I see it. It's all about man-management. Jet [Jennings] was good for me because he was hard and that was what I needed, but I'm not going to say that was the right way or Gary Kirsten's way was the right way. Some players need some love and some players need to be told when they are stepping out of line."
And he does not intend to do it all on his own either. Boucher wants to involve everyone, from Kallis to Makhaya Ntini, in an attempt to bring in as much expertise as possible in a domestic environment that he feels has not made enough effort to use the resources available. "Improvements need to be made in our domestic system and there are a lot of people that can be used - not just former players, but people with knowledge of the game in general. There is a lot of potential that could be used in a better way," Boucher said. "In terms of other players, I'd be stupid not use Jacques or Makhaya. If the guys want someone specific to mentor them, I have a line to a lot of guys, and we will bring them in."
In the squad, Boucher will lean on Albie Morkel, who captained Titans in last year's limited-overs campaigns. It has not been confirmed if he lead this summer, but even if he doesn't, Boucher still wants him to take on a senior role. "Guys like Albie and Heino Kuhn - they know their game, so it won't be about me trying to change them as cricketers but rather how I can make them available to pass on information to other players to be leaders."
Morkel, Kuhn, Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris, Dean Elgar, David Wiese and Henry Davids offer Boucher an experienced core to work with, but he is more excited about the young talent he has the opportunity to develop.
"I am very impressed with Junior Dala. He has got good pace and a great attitude. I can see him opening the bowling with Kagiso Rabada in future," Boucher said. "Then there is a guy called Eldred Hawken, who has come from the same area as Dale Steyn, from Tzaneen. He has also got pace and he is quite raw. And then guys like Grant Mokoena and Aiden Markram have a lot of potential."
Boucher has taken the job at a crucial time in South African cricket. Transformation targets are taking the attention away from any other topical issues in the sport. Franchise and provincial teams are required to field six players of colour, of whom at least three must be black African. The guidelines have created challenges for coaches to find the right balance. Boucher is not blind to that and wants to do his bit for change. "I understand the dynamics of the country I live in. I don't make the rules. Titans don't make the rules. If I didn't feel I had the character to manage some of the different scenarios that may come up, I would not have taken the job."
Aside from everything else, there is the obvious expectation to win competitions. Titans won both the first-class and 20-over trophies last season, which leaves little for Boucher to improve on but gives him the perfect opportunity to show what he can do in this new role.
"Rob was fantastic and I will be reaping the benefits of it. Titans have always had an excellent work ethic and culture. If I can improve every player by 10%, I will be happy with that."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent