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News

Mark Boucher tight-lipped on future as South Africa coach

Head coach admits situation has "been tough" as he awaits CSA disciplinary hearing

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
11-Apr-2022
Dean Elgar and Mark Boucher oversaw a successful Test summer for South Africa  •  AFP/Getty Images

Dean Elgar and Mark Boucher oversaw a successful Test summer for South Africa  •  AFP/Getty Images

Mark Boucher has given no clear indication of whether he wants to continue as South Africa's coach pending the outcome of his upcoming disciplinary hearing. Boucher will appear before senior counsel Terry Motau between May 16-20, where he faces charges of gross misconduct for his handling of racial issues, both historically and with the current team; CSA is seeking his dismissal, which could end Boucher's term well short of his contract period, which runs to the 2023 World Cup.
Boucher was appointed in December 2019, in the midst of a period of administrative turmoil at CSA, and has been in the eye of the storm ever since. Initially, there was intense public scrutiny of his displacing of Enoch Nkwe, South Africa's first black African coach, who became Boucher's assistant; then there were criticism of results, when South Africa lost a home Test series to England; finally, matters came to a head when Boucher was among those named at the Social Justice and Nation-Building Hearings (SJN) last year. Under investigation are his role in singing a team song with the words "b**** s***" to former team-mate Paul Adams, his relationship with Nkwe and his handling of the Black Lives Matter movement in the national team.
Combined with the project of rebuilding an inconsistent South Africa team, who slumped as low as 7th on the Test rankings, and remain in danger of missing out on automatic qualification to the ODI World Cup, Boucher's time in charge has been difficult, and he admitted after his players secured a 2-0 Test series win against Bangladesh that off-field matters had taken their toll.
"It's been tough," he said. "I've really enjoyed coaching the guys, the cricketing side of things. We've got a tight unit together. I've enjoyed being around the guys and seeing their developments in cricket. Outside of that, it's quite difficult for me to say I've enjoyed it. I don't think anyone in my situation can enjoy what's been put on my plate. I've enjoyed the cricket side of things and I will leave it at that."
Boucher intends to defend himself by calling on current players as witnesses, although it's not clear who will testify or whether former players, including Adams, will appear. It is also important to note that Boucher's future is not entirely dependent on the outcome of the hearing. If cleared, he may still choose to resign rather than see out his term, or settle with CSA and move on.
Boucher was asked if he would want to continue in the job, and take South Africa to England and Australia, both places where he was part of teams that won series in 2008, but hedged his bets about whether he would be included in the touring party.
"The person that I am, I am very competitive and you want to judge yourself against the best teams in the world," he said. "We played against the two best, of recent times, India and New Zealand, and they were tough-fought series, which is good because that's when your competitive spirit comes out. When I was playing, going to England and Australia were very tough. It would be nice to compete against them. But we'll see what happens in the future."
Boucher's immediate plans include holding meetings with the players to design their personal development plans and turning his attention to planning for the T20 World Cup. "We'll have a PDP for each player, we'll talk contracts, our coaches will sit together with them and talk about areas they've been good at and areas where we feel they can improve. There's a World Cup around the corner so we need to do some planning about what sort of team we are looking to select in those kinds of different conditions. So, a lot of work to be done outside the season as well. That will be happening hopefully within the next month."
It is also just over a month away from the start of his hearing. In that time, CSA will sift through applications for a new director of cricket after Graeme Smith's contract ended on March 31, as well as confirm an assistant coach for the national men's team. South Africa's next international assignment is five T20Is in India in June, followed by a three-ODI, three-T20I and three-Test tour of England between July and September.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent