Mon, 25 Jan 2021

He was heavily linked with the head coach position at the Southern Kings, but the next chapter in Rory Duncan's career lies in Japan.

Still just 42, the former Natal, Free State and Eastern Province lock has quietly gone about notching up an impressive resume in recent years.

The move into coaching came in 2012 and by 2014 he had joined the Free State Cheetahs where he took charge of their Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup sides before being elevated to the Director of Rugby position in 2015.

In 2017/18, Duncan served as head coach of the franchise as the Cheetahs enjoyed a maiden season in the PRO14, progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition.

A move to Worcester Warriors followed, where Duncan operated as head coach under Director of Rugby Alan Solomons, but with his contract at the club now coming to an end, Duncan has committed to joining former Lions boss Johan Ackermann at Japanese outfit Docomo Red Hurricanes.

Duncan and his family are still in Worcester awaiting visas and for travel restrictions to be lifted, but when he does get to Japan, he will start work as a defensive breakdown specialist under Ackermann.

With Neil de Bruin also joining Ackermann having parted ways with the Lions, the Hurricanes' coaching staff will be largely South African.

Both Gloucester under Ackermann and Worcester under Duncan had won just four of their 13 matches in the English Premiership this season before the campaign was suspended as a result of the coronavirus, but the pair will now be working together on a new project with the hope of expanding their coaching credentials even further.

"It is about learning about the different ways teams from different regions do things, but also the opportunity to work with a guy like Ackers (Ackermann)," Duncan told Sport24 earlier this week.

"He is a really good coach and highly rated and respected in rugby circles. An opportunity to learn from him would be great.

"We played against each other back in the day and I've followed his progress since he took over at the Lions. I was really impressed with what he did and how he built that team."

While the pair did share the field during their playing days, it was their time together as coaches in the Premiership where their bond grew.

"At Gloucester, he was 40 minutes down the road from me," Duncan said.

"We obviously bumped into each other on a couple of occasions when we played against each other and we'd have conversations. I've known him since the playing days, but I haven't had the opportunity to work with him I'm looking forward to it.

"I think he's a great coach and he is obviously renowned for building good teams and good team cultures."

Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like Duncan was on the verge of signing with the Kings. It would have been a move that made sense given his affiliation with the union during his playing days and his experience as a PRO14 coach with the Cheetahs.

"We had conversations with the guys. I don't think it's a secret that I was part of the interview process when they had the panel, and that was about it," Duncan confirmed.

"I knew that my contract was coming to an end at Worcester Warriors and that the journey here had ended and was exploring what options were available.

"When this opportunity came to join Docomo it was one that I was quite excited about."

Japan's Top League has become an increasingly attractive destination for South African players and the Hurricanes currently have Riaan Viljoen, Jacques van Rooyen and Lourens Erasmus on their books.

"When I was at the Cheetahs, we actually struck up a relationship with Toyota Verblitz where we actually tried to get a few of our players there," Duncan said.

"We did an exchange deal where, during the Currie Cup, we would send players there on a loan deal. Heinrich Brussow was a classic example.

"It can work, and Japan has always been a relatively popular destination for players."

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