CAPE TOWN – At 21.02pm on Tuesday an email dropped.
Generally that’s the time your regular spam mail pops up, but this was a rather important one. From the Western Province Rugby Union in fact!
After all the recent publicity relating to the shake-up at WP Rugby that has adorned the broadsheets, the powers-that-be can possibly not be faulted for sending out the email once newspaper deadlines had passed.
The focus was, of course, on the confirmation of WP coach John Dobson replacing Robbie Fleck as head coach of the Stormers next season.
The email also confirmed the appointment of the Stormers management team for this year with Riefaat Jappie (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Norman Laker (Defence Coach), and Dawie Snyman (Assistant Coach – Backs) coming into the set-up, joining head coach Fleck, Russell Winter (Assistant Coach – Forwards), Human Kriek (Technical Analyst) and Team Manager Chippie Solomon.
Most people, though, were keen to see where former defence coach Paul Treu would fit into the new set-up – if at all. After various reports ranging from Treu being offered a retrenchment package, to being the new Director of Rugby replacing Gert Smal – who has left for Japan – the former Blitzbok mentor will now occupy the role of Performance and Innovation Manager.
Treu will assist all teams in helping with their planning and preparation.
Considering all the drama that has transpired was due to Treu storming out of a Stormers season review meeting earlier this year, saying he “had enough of being treated poorly” and was “not going to take it anymore”, it is now the opportune time for Western Province/Stormers rugby to have a long look at itself.
Although an independent investigation found no forms of discrimination or unfair labour practices to the claims by Treu, WP Rugby has to tackle transformation from within head-on.
WP and, in turn, the Stormers have long been “the team of the people” with “the faithful” hailing from all communities.
However, there also remains a large element of distrust and hurt from sectors within the province.
The WPRFU can ill-afford not to get its house in order, considering only 14500 spectators attended the first home Super Rugby game of the season.
It was therefore refreshing to hear chief executive Paul Zacks state “in addition to ensuring the Stormers’ success on the field, one of Dobson’s key focus areas will be driving transformation in the Stormers’ future coaching and management teams.”
I personally believe Dobson is the right man to drive WP Rugby into this new world. It may be 20 years too late for some, but the former Ikeys mentor not only possesses an astute rugby brain, but has a track record of changing lives for the better.
During his time at UCT, “Dobbo” regularly provided opportunities for previously disadvantaged players to change their circumstances. Not just on the rugby field, but also in the lecture rooms.
He didn’t do it just to win games. He did because “it was the right thing to do”.
Time will tell whether the pressures of professional rugby will change Dobson’s outlook.
But right now, it would be the first step in the right direction WP Rugby has taken in a long time.