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Scotland fill Blair vacancy with French-based South African coach

By Sam Smith

Trending on RugbyPass

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Gregor Townsend has added a new attack coach to his Scotland backroom staff ahead of the November internationals, appointing South African Alan-Basson Zondagh who joins from Toulouse where he signed off with a European and French championship title-winning double in 2020/21.

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With Mike Blair, Scotland’s previous attack coach, switching to become boss at Edinburgh on July 23, Townsend, who had been touring with the British and Irish Lions, was left with a vacancy to fill and he has done so quickly, the recruitment of Zondagh being announced less than six weeks later. 

It is an interesting appointment appointing given how Scotland’s general improvement in the 2021 Six Nations championship with Blair still on board was followed by Townsend struggling to light up the Lions attacking strategy while touring South Africa as Warren Gatland’s attack/backs coach.  

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The 35-year-old Zondagh, who joined Toulouse full-time in 2019 having been a consultant for the year before that, previously coached at the Durban-based Sharks after starting his career at the South African Rugby Performance Centre in 2007 before a 2012 switch to the Border Bulldogs. He will begin his role with Scotland in early September, subject to visa.

Townsend said: “Mike has developed into an excellent coach and made a really positive contribution to the environment and improvement of the playing group in recent years, and I know all the Scotland management team wish him well in his new role at Edinburgh.

“We are delighted to secure such a high-quality replacement for Mike and to bring AB into the Scotland coaching set-up. It is much appreciated that his current employers, Toulouse, have granted him an early release to come on board with us. AB has already had an impressive coaching career in two very different rugby nations. I believe that these experiences, and his approach to coaching, will help us and our players make further progress as we build towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

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“The autumn Test series is just around the corner and will give our players and management team an opportunity to work with, and learn from, a new coach that has just worked at the highest level of European club rugby. AB will also be available as a skills resource coach for Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as with players at academy level.”

Delighted to join Scotland, Zondagh said: “I’m honoured to be a part of a team with so much history and a rich rugby culture. I see this as a massive opportunity to work in international rugby with Gregor and the other Scotland coaches and one that I am very excited to take – it was a no-brainer really and I am looking forward to adding value to the group and the positive rugby the team play.

“I know rugby at that level comes with high pressure, but that is why we coach because we enjoy the pressure and enjoy winning. I’ll be moving my family to Scotland. I think it is important to know the people, the history, understand how people and the players think, feel the energy, making connections which get results and build a relationship with everyone in the organisation.”

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Scotland fill Blair vacancy with French-based South African coach

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