Durban - The Sharks have slammed a newspaper report which indicated that there was a ‘coach row’ in the team following head coach Robert du Preez’s reluctance to pick Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Ralepelle, who featured on the bench for the Springboks in their final two Rugby Championship Tests, was unable to crack a nod in the Sharks’ Currie Cup match-day squad upon his return to provincial duty for the latter stages of the Currie Cup.
Du Preez picked Franco Marais as his starting hooker, with Akker van der Merwe on the bench.
According to the Sunday Times, Ralepelle was unhappy with his omission and took up the issue with Du Preez, before a high-level meeting took place to address the matter.
The newspaper reported that there is apparently also unrest over certain aspects of Du Preez's management style and the manner in which he addresses players.
The Sharks released an official statement on Monday where they strongly denied what was reported in the newspaper, labelling it as ‘sensational'.
The statement reads as follows:
In response to a disappointing article that appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday titled: Coach Row at Sharks, we believe it is important to advise the public of the facts that were presented to the newspaper in response to their allegations, which they chose to publish only parts of, in order to sensationalise a story that has no merit.
The Sharks have nothing to hide; therefore we would like to share with the public, our full response to the newspaper, as well as other facts regarding the non-selection of Chiliboy Ralepelle for the Currie Cup playoffs and the alleged unhappiness amongst ‘certain players’ according to an unnamed ‘source’.
During the 2017 rugby season Chiliboy Ralepelle played the most minutes at hooker during the Super Rugby campaign and also received sufficient game time when he was available during the Currie Cup. In our final pool match against Western Province, Chiliboy’s performance was below standard and this was addressed with the player.
Going into the playoffs players were given an opportunity to prove themselves and team management selected the strongest team on merit. Based on Chiliboy’s performance, the decision was made to go with Franco Marais and Akker van der Merwe for the semi-final, who were consistent performers throughout the campaign.
Only 23 players could be selected for the playoff matches and naturally there will be players who will feel aggrieved. This situation is not unique to just The Sharks. At this point we must also state that we are under no obligation to select our non-contracted Springboks, as was the case with other South African teams who opted against this.
Should a player who is in line for selection not make the team, the coaching team will call that particular player to a meeting and advise him of their decision directly. At this meeting Chiliboy had concerns about his non-selection for the semi-final and upon management’s request a meeting was set-up with Chiliboy. The purpose of this meeting was to engage with him regarding his concerns. Chiliboy was given clear reasons for his non-selection and was given an opportunity to ask any questions he had.
The above is exactly what transpired with Chiliboy and there is nothing further to add.
Our policy is always to be open and transparent with our players. Our environment demands a strong work ethic, respect for each other and our jersey.
There is a vision that our young team is working towards and discipline is paramount to our success. The environment created has taken us to the Currie Cup Final in year one and this is just the beginning of where we want to be, as a group.
Players who view discipline and a strong work ethic as a negative and who cannot bring themselves to work within a structured environment, will find it difficult to fit into our family moving forward.
We have a loyal group of players who have bought into a strong vision and this is none more so evident than the fact that 27 of our current players have re-signed, within the last few months, and have committed their long-term futures to The Sharks. If players were unhappy, like the accusation suggests, then why would they recommit?
Our management and players remain focused on the vision we are working towards and this vision will be achieved by building and maintaining a strong team culture. Our performance in the 2017 Currie Cup shows that we are heading in the right direction. The development of our players is also important to us and we want to give them opportunities, with which they can make a case for higher honours. In 2017, there have been eleven players that have either played for the Springboks or who have spent time in the Springbok set-up.
It is disappointing that an incident which was addressed and resolved by the parties concerned is being highlighted to push personal agendas.
Our players know that there is an open door policy at The Sharks and should there be any grievances they are most welcome to address those concerns with our senior management who are always willing and available to engage constructively. Therefore if there were any concerns on the part of players, it is perplexing to understand why they would remain anonymous rather than approach management with their concerns.
Management would respect such an approach rather than choosing to use public platforms to address matters of concern.
We remain a family at The Sharks, and as is the case with most families, we may have differing viewpoints at times, but nothing is to major that it cannot be discussed internally and resolved amicably. We are fortunate to be led by a CEO who supports his management team and our staff in working towards a shared vision that will take our brand to new heights.