Stormers leaking like a sieve
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
As part of the prize giving at a Stormers golf day I MC’d in aid of the Chris Burger Fund earlier this year, I had the privilege of interviewing skipper Jean de Villiers.
Too much consternation from the WPRU administrators and coaches in the audience, I cheekily asked De Villiers if the only thing the Stormers had been practicing at their Belville base was the rolling maul.
The skipper, one of the true gentleman of the game, and now also deservedly at the helm in Green and Gold, took the question on the chin. He gave an honest an insightful answer suggesting a horses for courses approach was in place, saying that when the time for a more adventurous game plan was called for, they would hall it out.
Sadly, we are still waiting …
Not normally a bunch to call a spade a spade, given their partnership with SARU and concerns re: TV rights, my colleagues at SuperSport were pretty honest about the Stormers in their Super Rugby WRAP this week, asking what it would say about the tournament as a whole if the “flair-less” Stormers turn out to be the overall leaders at the end of league play? Not much according them, given that “The game itself has degenerated into an adventure-less, defence-dominated bore-fest”.
Strong stuff, but pretty fair given that the Stormers have not scored a single four-try bonus point, scored 20 less tries than their closest conference rivals the Bulls, and only one more than the lowest-ranked Lions!
This in the month that it was announced that young Baby Bok sensation Handre Pollard, still at school and playing for WP in next week’s Craven Week, will be leaving WP to take up a contract with the Bulls next year, and that Quinn Roux and Danie Poolman will be heading to Ireland after the Super Rugby season. Throw in names like Nic Fenton-Wells, Johann Sadie, Tim Whitehead, JJ Engelbrecht, Jaque Fourie and Francois Hougaard, all of whom have meandered off to pastures greener, and one can understand the uproar from Western Cape rugby fans.
But does the fault lie only with the WPRU administration? Is it because the talent identification and retention strategy is not up to scratch? Do WP just produce more talent than they can handle? Or is it perhaps because they play crap rugby?
Players leave not only for financial reasons, but because they like a specific coach, like a specific game plan, get treated well by a player liaison, or just want to get some actual game time …
Having looked into them at some depth, I am of the belief that the necessary structures are in place in the Western Cape. The Elite Squads at the School of Excellence, the WP Institute, and the High Performance Centre in Belville are impressive entities, and the instruction offered, both in terms of rugby and life skills, is second to none.
It’s perhaps on the human front that WP might be lacking … Having advertised the post of High Performance Manager earlier in the year, a role aimed at handling the off field player administration void left through Rassie Erasmus’s departure, including all negotiations with both players and player-agents, I am told that it was never filled.
Which seems crazy in this professional era …
And having spoken to several coaches at the union, the concern has never been about the actual structures, but more about the human capital entering said structures. And their hope was that the High Performance Manager, while obviously aiming to make a professional players life at the union more enjoyable and rewarding, would help in identifying, and thus improving, the level of talent entering the structures.
It seems this role is now being shared amongst the coaches and administration, and perhaps this creates more of a sieve like structure rather than the bedrock players seek?
But in the professional era, player movement - between club, province, and country - will happen. At least here in SA, it’s about finding ways to keep local talent, unlike in Ireland where clubs are fighting for ways to be able to contract more foreigners while the national body is trying to enforce laws to make clubs sign local players …
But I am pretty sure that playing a more entertaining brand of rugby would help WP and the Stormers hold onto a few more of their players. After all, it’s not always about money.Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt
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