Rugby

Smal set for WP directorship

2014-03-24 17:30
Gert Smal (File)

Johannesburg - Gert Smal is set to be installed as the Western Province director of rugby as the union prepares to overhaul the much maligned Stormers management team.

According to the supersport.com website, it is understood that Smal, who is a big favourite of Wakefield and was first sounded out about the role last August, could be announced in his new position as early as next week, with Wakefield now assured of the ratification of his proposal by the board, who he says support him 100%.

Wakefield has long been in favour of the appointment of a director of rugby, but was held back by the reluctance of board members who have now obviously changed their minds.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the reasons for the about turn, for there has been a steady flow of criticism directed at the Stormers throughout a Super Rugby season which has now seen four defeats in five starts.

The negative mood effectively started last October, when Western Province lost a home Currie Cup final to the Sharks.

Brendan Venter, a resident of Somerset West who masterminded the Sharks win that day, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate, but it is believed that Smal is the man Wakefield and the WP board is pushing for.

Wakefield first hinted that changes would be made after the tour in the very first week, when they were in Christchurch, where the Stormers played their opening tour match against the Crusaders.

He denied then that there had been any firm offer made to Smal but said that he was on a fact finding mission and "we will wait until the tour has run its course before we decide whether or not we need to make any changes or call for reinforcements."

Smal mentioned in conversation the week that contact was made with Wakefield that while he hadn’t had any recent contact with Stormers or WP officials, he would jump at the WP directorship job if it was created as he would prefer to be involved with Cape rugby than commit to other options that he was considering.

Like current Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, Smal was a member of Jake White’s victorious Springbok management at the 2007 World Cup.

White has never made any secret of his massive admiration for Smal, who he has said would pair up with Eddie Jones as assistants in his dream coaching team.

However, while it was understood that White was interested in employing Smal at the Cell C Sharks, it is believed he was prevented from doing so by the fact that the Sharks middle management team was already in place and contracted before he took up his job as director of rugby.

Apart from being forward coach to the Boks under both White and before that Rudolf Straeuli, Smal also spent four years as assistant coach and forward specialist with the Ireland Rugby Union.

So since he last coached the Stormers in 2006 he has built extensively on a broad rugby coaching education that first started off at the highest level when Carel du Plessis appointed him as his assistant coach at the Boks in 1997.

The former Springbok loose-forward returned to Cape Town from Dublin at the start of the year after a new coaching team was employed for the Ireland national side.

Although he was not prepared to say whether any members of the current coaching team would be sacked, Wakefield told the Cape Times on Monday that there would be additions to the management team.

"There will be additions to the management, and we know exactly where we lack expertise.

"I cannot give names at this stage of who it might be," said Wakefield.

He said he had informed the Stormers management that there would be "a couple of changes, and we are looking at all areas of the management – be it coaching or medical or whatever.

"The players are our most important assets, and at this stage I need to look at the full monty – from a psychological level right down through to medical services."

The Stormers/WP have not officially had a director of rugby since Nick Mallett vacated that post in 2007, but Rassie Erasmus, when he was WP Senior Professional Coach, effectively filled that role.

There has been an obvious void ever since Erasmus parted ways with the union at the start of 2012 because he felt there was too much interference from administrators and not enough buy-in to what he was doing.

He may not have been appreciated as much as he should have been by the WP bosses, but it was predicted at the time that they would understand his value once he was gone, and it could be argued that recent events are a case of chickens finally coming home to roost for a union that often stands accused of putting personal agendas and politics ahead of the quest for excellence.

Read more on:    stormers  |  super 15  |  gert smal  |  thelo wakefield  |  cape town  |  rugby
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