Diergaardt on life after Welwitschias stint

By Michael Uugwanga

FORMER Welwitschias and current University of Namibia (UNAM) rugby club head coach, Johan Diergaardt has opened up to Confidente Sport on his coaching journey and his fallout with the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU).

Diergaardt who to date is the most successful local rugby coach after leading the Welwitschias to their only International Rugby Board (IRB)  Nations Trophy in  2010 in Romania and has four domestic Namibia Rugby Premier League (NRPL) titles with Western Suburbs in 2008 and UNAM in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Early this year he returned to UNAM after walking away from the Welwitschias job in December last year, due to personal reasons.

“Well I used to play school rugby, although in those years there were no formal rugby structures, no league or so on, because rugby was only for the white schools. I started playing rugby in 1982 for Western Suburbs when I was 17. I played with the likes of Sarel Losper in the first team till when we broke away from the old South West Rugby and formed the Namibia National Rugby Union (NANRU), of which we played under the South Africa Rugby Union (SARU) in the South Africa Cup, a provincial competition. I ended my rugby career in 1998 with UNAM,” said Diergaardt.

Even though he only played three times for Namibia A team in 1990 against Italy and Ireland, Diergaardt developed into one of the country’s best local coaches. And then the national team job came calling.

“Winning the IRB Nations Cup was my best moment as we beat host Romania, Georgia and Scotland A. Leading the Welwitschias to the World Cup in New Zealand was also one of my best moments in my coaching career.”

He currently holds a World Rugby Level three coaching certificate.

He is one of those coaches that hardly smile while on the touchline, yet he is on the other hand a funny character when with his family and friends, and those that know him well.

“On the bench I need to concentrate on what is at hand because I am part of the game. As coach you need to focus, pick up any momentum change and feed your players with the right advice and know when to bring on substitution that will make an impact.”

A father of three daughters and grandfather to one, Diergaardt is a property developer in Windhoek.

“I do not get a lot of free time, but being with my family and friends is very good for recovery.”

His departure from the Welwitschias as head coach was a big surprise to many.

“Coaching nowadays is a profession. Namibian administrators do not recognise our value, as they do not want to pay local coaches the same amount they are willing to pay foreign coaches. I think I had my time with the Welwitschias as coach,” said Diergaardt when asked if he will one day return to the national team.