Stormers job: our ‘possibles’

    2015-02-05 13:13

    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 welcome):

    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 ... 

    Likelihood: 5/10

    John Dobson

    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?

    Likelihood: 4/10

    Rassie Erasmus

    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.

    Likelihood: 3.5/10

    Eddie Jones

    “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 ...

    Likelihood: 7/10

    Nick Mallett

    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.

    Likelihood: 5/10

    Paul Treu

    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.  

    Likelihood: 4.5/10

    Brendan Venter

    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.

    Likelihood: 6/10

    Jake White

    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. 

    Likelihood: 4.5/10

    Chester Williams

    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 ...  

    Likelihood: 3.5/10

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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