How WP dressing room dealt with union's off-field woes

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Chris van Zyl during a Stormers training session at Cape Town Stadium. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)
Chris van Zyl during a Stormers training session at Cape Town Stadium. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

Recently-retired Western Province and Stormers lock Chris van Zyl says coach John Dobson and his management staff did a good job keeping the team focused despite all the recent off-field dramas plaguing the union.

"Dobbo and the management team did such a good job of shielding us from all that noise. So unless you are actively going out and reading the newspapers and digital feeds, whether it’s right or wrong, I think you are actually okay," Van Zyl told Sport24 this week.

"The management were very careful that we focused on what took place at the HPC (High Performance Centre) in Bellville, Newlands and Cape Town Stadium because those are the aspects we could control. The message from the leadership group was to always focus on the controllables.'

The Cape union has been in murky waters of late - in December it faced the news that Flyt Property Investment would be seeking "damages" over reneging on an agreement signed in June 2020, while American consortium MVM Holdings pulled out of negotiations around a prospective investment.

MVM Holdings subsequently signed a majority stake (51%) in WP's coastal rivals, the Sharks and it is believed that WP's top brass were reluctant to hand over a 51% controlling stake to the American consortium.

It also led to WP losing Springbok captain Siya Kolisi to the Sharks and the union is also still looking for a new CEO after Paul Zacks departed in early 2020.

Van Zyl said there needs to be a mind-shift in South Africa where rugby is treated as "more of a business". 

"It’s going to be interesting to see how the relationship between the Sharks and MVM plays out because it's something new.

"It was definitely sad to see the back of Siya Kolisi. In the last year-and-a-half, Siya and I became really close on a personal level. From a leadership point of view, we respected each other equally. He is such an inspirational character as well as a warrior on the field and leaned on me for guidance and advice at some stages.

"We had a great on-field relationship from that point of view as well. We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and that combination worked quite nicely in the games that we played together. Often being a great leader is to follow with conviction. Having always captained throughout my career under Dobbo and then being in a situation where I wasn't anymore, I was conscious to ensure I followed with conviction as that is very powerful in a team environment."

READ | Chris van Zyl's full Q&A interview with Sport24

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