Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Cape Town - The resignation of Rassie Erasmus and the offer to join Heyneke Meyer at the Springboks have combined to give more power and decision-making responsibilities to Allister Coetzee at the Stormers.
Western Province Rugby president Tobie Titus joined Coetzee in addressing a press conference at the High Performance Centre at Bellville on Monday where it was confirmed that while Coetzee will continue as Stormers head coach and not assume the director of rugby position, he will now be the chief decision-maker on rugby related matters at the union.
When Erasmus was WP Senior Professional Coach, which was effectively another name for the director of rugby position, Coetzee had to report to Erasmus. Although a High Performance Manager is to be appointed by WP, Coetzee stressed that the person who fills the position will be second in command to him.
“The High Performance position will be a largely administrative one and the person who fills it will report directly to me and help with issues related to contracting,” said Coetzee.
Western Province announced that the appointment will be made shortly and the portfolio would include “the management of players on and off the pitch, including assistant with player contracting for the Province”.
The union also confirmed that Coetzee’s contract has been extended for the next three years. Coetzee was initially contracted until the end of October 2012, as was Erasmus. Titus said that contract extensions have also been offered to assistant coaches Robbie Fleck and Matthew Proudfoot, as well as to Stormers defence coach Jacques Nienaber and WP Vodacom Cup and Under-20 coach John Dobson.
“The important thing is that Allister is in control now and the buck stops with him so we wish him the best of luck,” said Titus.
With the opening Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes now just five days away, Coetzee said he was pleased the announcement had put an end to the ongoing speculation so that the management and the team could concentrate on the task at hand.
“I have no doubt that we have a settled group who know where they want to go,” said Coetzee.
“Rassie will be missed by us, there is no doubt about that, as a person of his standing would be in any rugby environment. But I have done this job for the past two years and am confident we can build on the successes that were started.”
The timing of the announcement, which came on the same day as Coetzee confirmed to the media that he had turned down new Springbok coach Meyer’s offer for him to join his management as backline coach, isn’t coincidental. It is understood the Bok offer put Coetzee in a position of strength in his negotiations with the union and with Erasmus already out of the picture he was in position to dictate terms.
The announcement that Coetzee won’t be assuming the rugby directorship while at the same time holding down the position of head coach will be welcomed by those who understand how demanding it is to try and dovetail the management of the contracting process with the immediate week by week challenge of trying to win every match.
Coetzee said that he would play a greater role in succession planning from next year and would endeavour to get himself acquainted with the talent coming through at all levels of rugby at WP, and this may entail him relinquishing the role of WP coach in next year’s Currie Cup. However this year he will continue to coach both WP and the Stormers.
The Stormers coach admitted that the offer to join the Boks had been a tempting one but that he had full confidence in WP/the Stormers’ ability to win a trophy.
“Our focus now is completely on the Hurricanes as it is going to be a massive game for us,” he said.