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For Kevin, rugby is about believing in the magic

  • JackSportKevin
For Kevin Musikanth, rugby has always been more than just a game - it’s a passion. That is a word often used quite loosely these days, but there is no doubt when speaking to the 40-year-old that he has a devotion not to the sport alone, but in particular, to winning in the sport.
by JACK MILNER | Sep 28, 2017

It is that winning drive that has made him a successful rugby coach and seen him set up a formidable CV.

Among his recent endeavours was coaching the South African team at the recent Maccabiah. He came away with a surprise gold medal in the sevens, and a slightly disappointing silver medal in the 15-man game.

But most importantly, he came away with a new job, to coach the Israeli rugby sevens team. “For us rugby sevens is secondary to the 15-man game, but in Israel they take it seriously. I think they see it as step to the other forms of the sport.”

Sevens is now an Olympic sport and that could also be a motivating factor for the Israelis. “At the moment they are in the third tier of the European Pool. They have a long way to go to reach the next tier, but they have some test matches coming up and I have been asked to coach them in those tests which is a massive honour.”

His first encounter will be in Andorra on October 21 and after that Israel will face the others in their Pool – the North group – who are Malta, Bosnia and Croatia. “If they win their group, they will play the winners of the North group. A win there will see them move up into the next tier in 2018.”

Kevin was born in Muizenberg and attended Wynberg Boys’ High. He played rugby at school and probably would have gone on to play at a higher level, but he got injured and that forced him into coaching.

He started coaching schoolboy and club rugby. He coached False Bay club from 2009 to 2013, but took a year out in 2012 when he took up a post at Wynberg Boys. “I had a great start and we managed to win promotion that year.”

He continued with the club until 2012 with great success, but then he was offered the job at Wynberg Boys which he took up. However, in the year he left False Bay, they went into decline and he was asked to come back in 2013. The success was immediate and they won the league.

“It was then that the University of Cape Town offered me a position. They were in dire straits at the time and they were facing relegation from the Varsity Cup. I had one instruction when I took over – avoid relegation,” said Kevin.

However, what transpired with UCT was the stuff that dreams are made of, as not only did they avoid relegation, but went on to win the Varsity Cup. “With five minutes to play we were down 15-33. Then Michael Botha scored a try which was converted but we were still 10 points behind.”

With less than three minutes on the clock it looked all over. “With less than two minutes to go we scored a second try which was converted and we rushed to get the game restarted with just one minute left.”

The 80 minutes was up and all Pukke had to do was get possession and kick the ball out. But Pukke made a fatal error when they were close to the try line. Instead of kicking the ball into touch, their player attempted a drop goal which got run down by UCT. With the game now in the 83rd minute, the boys from Cape Town managed to work the ball down field and finally scored the winning try.

“Magic is around us all the time and it only exists if you truly believe in it,” says Kevin. “By the time the 73rd minute rolled around, the masters had given up on their belief but the players, the students on the field, had decided they truly believed and were never going to give up. That turned us around.”  

The next year UCT finished third in the Varsity Cup but as winners in 2014, they went to Oxford in the UK and became World University Champions in 2015.

“I was hoping to become the Super Rugby coach but when the Stormers reunited with Eddie Jones, I knew there was no chance for me so I decided to move on.”

Kevin was offered the job at St John’s College in Johannesburg and he jumped at the opportunity. “It’s fortunate the job is a passion for me. I had been a coach for over 300 first team games with a good record, but I realised I had to move on.”

The St John’s job has been very rewarding as they have a great record. But more than that they have been incredibly supportive with this job in Israel and have allowed me to go.”

Kevin says his success has come from understanding “the value of the person behind the player. Many coaches just concentrate on the sport. But there are other issues one needs to deal with: Are there any personal problems he might be dealing with? It’s a matter of attention to detail and also understanding one’s own shortcomings. The art is to pick players who are well rounded, nurture and protect them.”

Kevin will leave for Israel on October 10 to prepare the team for their away match against Andorra.  

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