5 things for Smal to consider...

Herman Mostert (File)
Herman Mostert (File)
Gert Smal was on Monday unveiled as the union’s new Director of Rugby - a role which will see him head up rugby matters from Under-13 level right up to the Stormers team.

Here follows FIVE things I’d like to see the former Springbok loose forward enforce:

1. Trust your player depth

At the press conference when his appointment was announced, Smal described WP as “arguably the most talented union in the country” - and he’s quite right.

WP teams from Under-13 right up to the Under-21s won trophies last year and do so on a regular basis which is indicative of the talent the union possesses.

However, the same success has not been emulated by the senior team, who have very little to show over the last decade - the 2012 Currie Cup final win being their only noteworthy achievement.

Therefore, I feel Smal should make sure that the senior team’s coaches show faith in talent emerging in the junior structures.

Too often have WP bought players from outside which did the senior team more harm than good - Sireli Naqelevuki and Elton Jantjies are two perfect examples.

Earlier this season, another South Seas Island wing, Sailosi Tagicakibau, was recruited at the expense of local players and the huge investment in fullback Jaco Taute - who was bought for millions from the Lions - is also yet to pay dividends.

WP is the only union in the country which boasts two strong Varsity Cup teams - Maties and Ikeys - and the Super League A is arguably South Africa’s strongest club competition. Then there’s also wealth of player depth in the Boland region which the Stormers seem to neglect year in, year out, much to the dismay of the wine farmers.

Smal needs to realise this and find a way at best utilising the talent at his exposal right on his own doorstep.

2. Get that mental coach!

There are rumours that Henning Gericke - a psychologist who previously worked with the Springboks and Proteas - will be recruited to help with matters of the mind.

It would definitely be a good appointment by Smal. Gericke worked with the Springbok players’ heads when they won the 2007 Rugby World Cup and the current WP/Stormers team have failed on the big stage more often than not in the last five years.

It appears whenever they are tipped for honours in a pressure-cooker match, they tend to freeze on the big stage, unable to handle the extra burden of pressure when it really matters.

Noteworthy games lost by WP/Stormers teams in the last five years that spring to mind are the 2009 Currie Cup semi-final (lost 21-19 to the Blue Bulls at Newlands), 2010 Super Rugby final (lost 25-17 to the Bulls in Soweto), 2010 Currie Cup final (lost 30-10 to the Sharks in Durban), 2011 Super Rugby semi-final (lost 29-10 to the Crusaders at Newlands), 2012 Super Rugby semi-final (lost 26-19 to the Sharks at Newlands) and 2013 Currie Cup final (lost 33-19 to the Sharks at Newlands).

In all these games current coach Allister Coetzee was in charge, so perhaps a motivator with a different point of view could help next time round...

3. Stay clear of boardroom politics

The union needs its commercial arm (WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd.) to be able to make the big calls and not the amateur one.

Unfortunately, the amateur one remains the major shareholder in WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, which leads to a governing body that relies on votes from the amateur clubs - all 91 of them!

As noted by Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning, it leads to an unhealthy situation where a president is focused on getting votes from clubs rather than actual rugby matters.

It was boardroom politics that saw Rassie Erasmus quit his role a few years back, after claiming he was spending more time fighting politics than he was on rugby matters.

Smal therefore needs to make sure he is not manipulated in any way and be free to do his job as he feels best - of course for the good of the union. He may not be able to change the whole constitution, but should stand firm on matters be believes in.

4. Get Coetzee and Co to buy into your vision

Smal said he wanted WP and Stormers teams to revert back to playing traditional ‘WP rugby' playing style in future. By that he means reverting back to playing with the old flair WP teams of the past produced.

That style has been almost non-existent under the correct coaching contingent of Allister Coetzee, Robbie Fleck and Matthew Proudfoot, who have moulded the Stormers into an exclusively defensive-minded unit.

As a result, four-try bonus point victories have been almost non-existent in recent years and the Stormers have become known as a team incapable of “chasing” games once they start off on the back foot.

Coetzee, interestingly, was quite sceptical when asked if he bought into the plans set out by Smal. He said “it’s too early to say” and “that a lot of discussion and debate” need to go into it.

If Smal wants a certain game style to be employed, he must enforce it on all the coaches to ensure a uniformed style is played by all teams in the union - as was the case of old.

And if they don’t want to buy into it after the proposed “discussions and debate”, then Smal has to wield the axe.

Losing the six above-mentioned pressure cooker games was a case in point that the current game style does not work when it really matters.

5. Make use of Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter, who achieved so much success at English club, Saracens, showed his credentials when he helped the Sharks to Currie Cup success last year - outfoxing Smal’s new team in the final at Newlands.

Venter currently lives in Strand where he runs a medical practice and will also help out at school side, Paul Roos.

But I’m sure he’ll be more than willing to help out on a consultancy basis. He loves the game too much and has too much to offer.

Smal would do well to get him to at least share some of his ideas...

Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - and fancies himself as a bit of a tennis player and rugby writer...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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