Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The job of head coach of the Stormers is
available from the 2016 season ... and as one of the traditionally
best-supported franchises in Super Rugby, it remains a prestigious post despite
the title proving so stubbornly elusive at Newlands.
With incumbent Allister Coetzee having his sixth and final stab
at the silverware in the position this year before he heads for fresh
challenges in Japan, director of rugby Gert Smal will probably want to nail
down the successor well before the end of the current year.
So who might it be?
Making no apology for this being a speculative exercise,
Sport24 dishes out the names of just a few potential personalities who might be
interested – to varying degrees -- in inheriting the tracksuit.
In alphabetical order, with a likelihood score out of 10 in
each instance, here’s that list (reader suggestions for other candidates very
Peter de Villiers
At roughly the same time as news of Coetzee’s departure
became official, current UWC (Varsity Shield) head coach De Villiers piped up
about aspirations of returning to a higher level again. This quirky character
had a decent enough win record of 62 percent in some four years as Bok coach up
to 2011, and was arguably thwarted more by Bryce Lawrence than anything else as
his troops exited the World Cup that year as controversially-beaten
quarter-finalists. But he will always be haunted by a reputation for a
foot-in-mouth fault on the public relations front ...
At this stage a lack of time, more than anything else,
probably counts against Dobson, the newly-appointed WP Currie Cup coach, being
spectacularly elevated to the Stormers job for 2016. Another gifted rugby brain
in the Newlands fold, many feel Dobson – who enjoyed marked success with the
Vodacom Cup and under-21 sides in the union – ought to have had a Currie Cup
stab earlier, although this is finally his big chance to show his mettle. But
if Province are flying in the domestic competition later in the season, playing
enterprising rugby, and the Stormers gap is still unplugged ... well, a
short-term fill-in or “trial” deal cannot entirely be ruled out, yes?
Ah, the mystery man of SA rugby! Currently SARU’s “general
manager: high performance teams”, Erasmus seems to relish flying beneath the
radar, and few would deny that he didn’t play a very constructive role, as
director of rugby for a couple of years at Newlands, in restoring the Stormers
to status among the front-runners in the competition. But he quit a little
suddenly, amidst murmurs of “politics” in Cape Town irking him, and a return as
head coach just doesn’t seem very plausible. Still, he’s relatively young, at
42 ... and boasts a very sharp rugby mind.
“Tokyo is a long way from Cape Town, mate,” the Japan coach
protested over rumours he’d been in Cape Town to sniff out possibilities for
the Stormers job. Others may retort that it’s a small world, or that where
there’s smoke there’s so often fire. The former Wallabies coach is familiar
with the culture of South African rugby after his advisory days with the
Springboks, and may stay a front-runner in many observers’ minds. He seems a
suitably big fish, and the path may be conveniently clear for him after Japan’s
RWC campaign later this year ...
Another who has previously played for Western Province, and
had his stint as director of rugby at Newlands around a decade back, so returning
as head coach now seems a strange fit, and fairly long shot. Mallett is also
comfortable in his present, overwhelmingly popular role as a straight-talking
SuperSport pundit. Still, as a once record-breaking Bok coach, the 58-year-old
retains a swollen fan club for his cerebral qualities in the game. Perhaps
likelier, if he does ever return to coaching/directorship, would be a lucrative
deal with a national team abroad.
Between 1999 and 2014 – a period of some 15 years –
Swellendam-born Treu’s name was almost exclusively associated with first
playing and then the coaching role for the SA Sevens team (plus a stint as
Kenya’s mastermind). But more recently he was snapped up to join the
WP/Stormers coaching staff, and will be tested out this season as the Super
Rugby outfit’s new man in charge of defence – if he does it smartly, he could
become an outsider for the senior post, although a lack of prior experience as
a head coach in the XVs environment counts against him.
The former Bok centre has a technical director’s post at the
Sharks this season, under new director of rugby Gary Gold, but he certainly has
migratory possibilities after the 2015 campaign – especially as he is Western
Cape-orientated and keeps a medical practice in Strand. His strategic acumen is
widely lauded and he brings a global feel to his coaching and mentorship
skills. Venter is well-versed in the Stormers scene as he aided Erasmus during
his tenure with the franchise not many seasons back.
As a World Cup-winning Bok coach in 2007, White stays a
heavyweight name in the game, although his tenures have become increasingly
short ... the Brumbies and Sharks come to mind, and he left both under a cloud
or two. He is viewed as opportunistic and just too single-minded by some
critics. White is currently Montpellier’s new supremo, although he retains
family/lifestyle interests in Cape Town. But a big stumbling block would
probably be that his conservative rugby style is at odds with the desire of the
Smal regime to pep up the Stormers/WP attacking play.
One of the on-field darlings of ’95, and a long-time
provincial favourite of the Newlands crowd, Williams would not lack support in
some circles. But his CV is hamstrung by decidedly mixed fortunes as a coach in
the XVs landscaps – the Cats struggled horribly in his short tenure some 10
years ago -- and in recent years he has been rather off the beaten track,
helping the rugby cause in such outposts as Uganda, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Meteoric return to Super Rugby? Can’t see it ...
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing