AB Zondagh: Gregor Townsend hails recruitment of new Scotland skills coach who will also be available to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors

Gregor Townsend believes the recruitment of AB Zondagh as Scotland’s new assistant coach will help his squad improve their skillset as they build towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

AB Zondagh helped Toulouse win both the French Top 14 and Heineken Champions Cup last season. Picture: Dan Sheridan/INPHO/Shutterstock

The national side appear to have pulled off quite a coup by persuading the highly rated South African to leave double winners Stade Toulousain to move to Murrayfield.

Zondagh will focus on attack, replacing Mike Blair who stepped down from the Scotland set-up in July to replace Richard Cockerill as Edinburgh’s head coach.

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The 35-year-old will begin his role in early September, subject to visa, and will also be available as a skills resource coach for Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as academy players. It means Zondagh will be on board for the four-match Autumn Test Series, which includes a game against the Springboks at Murrayfield in November.

Gregor Townsend, who made the Scottish Cup first-round draw at the weekend, is delighted to get AB Zondagh on board. Picture: Alan Harvey / SNS

Townsend paid tribute to Blair as he welcomed Zondagh on board.

“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,” said the Scotland head coach.

“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.”

Zondagh, under head coach Ugo Mola, helped Toulouse win the French Top 14 and the Heineken Champions Cup last season but he said joining Scotland was a “no brainer”.

“I am honoured to be a part of a team with so much history and a rich rugby culture,” he said. “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 relationship with everyone in the organisation.”

Zondagh’s role at Toulouse was as an assistant coach focussing on kicking, attack and skills development. He previously coached at the Sharks in South Africa, helping them win the Currie Cup in 2016 and 2018.

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