Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Rassie a symptom of WP disease

Below a piece I wrote for the newly created News24 Voices

So the Western Province Rugby Union let the likes of Johan Sadie, JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Louw and Tim Whitehead go, while happy to splash massive cash to keep a clearly out of form Bryan Habana in the shade of the big flat block of granite …

They then had to say Arrivederci to one of the best centres in the world, Jacque Fourie – Admittedly he was offered an amount of money that if piled up would probably put said block of granite in the shade! And Habana may indeed prove to be a master stroke, but you know you are on the wrong side of the value chain when a club like Toulon deems the player “Too expensive” …

Then came the debacle that was the Sracens vs Biarritz Heineken Cup game that was to be played at the Cape Town stadium … until the petty politics at WPRU woke up and smelt the coffee … And now you have the resignation of senior coach Rassie Erasmus …

And no matter how much spin was put on the official press release, this was no voluntary resignation …

Nope, this was basically forced on him …

No matter what you think about the man, his performance, or his track record in Cape Town, the fact of the matter is that he is a coach held in very high regard by both players and fellow coaches, hence the demand for his services from not only European clubs, but also SARU and England … Yet WP were happy to see him go. Why, because he chose to take on the system!

That system? The fact that every decision made by the professional arm of the union has to be ratified by the amateur era blazer brigade disguised as some sort of “Executive council”. And for these guys it is, incredibly and sadly, not about the rugby – a number of players suggest that they get the feeling the council actually want them to lose – but about petty politicking to keep them on the double breakfast gravy train! Especially in an election year as this one is …

Why else would a guy like WPRU vice-president Thelo Wakefield, a man with political rather than rugby ambitions, choose to call the Currie Cup side too white on the eve of a big game?

It was this same Wakefiled who denied Erasmus the chance to employ a distant family member as video analyst, even though he was deemed best for the job after an interview process … And then went on to end the contract of a fitness coach Erasmus had recruited, replacing him with someone he wanted, without telling Erasmus.

So instead of just taking it and keeping quiet, Erasmus has done the honorable thing and resigned (while keeping quiet – to his credit) … And the Cape has lost a top notch rugby brain – on the eve of the toughest rugby tournament in the world!

The professional arm of the WPRU needs to be freed up to act like the big business that rugby is, and for that to happen we need see the back of these gravy stained amateur “Executives” … The Erasmus departure is a mere symptom of a bigger disease …

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

15 Comments

  1. I said last year that WP/Stormers rugby will be the laughing stock of SA rugby in 2012 and not the Lions. The Lions had their fair share of mismanaged boardroom politics and most people didn’t care as the Lions were not a top notch team in the system. Now a professional outfit like WPRFU stuffs up the most successful team ever in Currie Cup and SA rugby history. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a WP exodus when the season is finished.

  2. Very sad, this turn of events. What will it take to change things? Ending in 14th place this season?

    By the way, Table Mountain is predominantly sandstone, not granite :)

  3. Well said Tank!!

  4. Can’t agree more, Tank. Had the misfortune of being in a business meeting with Thelo Wakefield in 2011. I can best describe his impact on me as underwhelming.

    But this craziness extends further up the value chain as well. How can SA Rugby truly prosper when all provincial unions have equal votes, so you have 14 (I think) blazered amateurs blocking the progress of the professional game, so safeguard their own interests.

    Sad, very sad.

    Scrummie

    • Spot on scrummie … And that is something I address in my first column in Sports Illustrated – out in mid Feb …

  5. Spot on Tank. It’s about time that they got called on some of the BS that they get away with.

    I loved that over the past few years they’ve sold off all their property around the stadium to balance the books – absolutely no investment or view towards the future.

  6. I can only hope for WP sake that they do not lose any other coaches like Dobbo and Fleckie because of the systems in place….

  7. Yet another reason why I couldn’t bring myself to support the Stormers.

  8. Tank is hitting the nail on the head. Why do we have to suffer fools like Wakefield and Wagner? It’s time they also depart. This also applies to NOTROPHY Coetzee.

  9. I must say I’m quite “gatvol” of this…. This is my team – our team – but hell they are becoming a joke!

  10. Just for the record, Rob Wagner is not one of the elected amateur officials. I think his job titles are MD WP Rugby and CE Stormers. In other words, the professional arm (which makes nearly all the money). A salaried employee, not elected from the clubs. He is as much a “victim” of the amateurism and politicking as the coaches and players.

    It’s easy to call for heads to roll, but the hard thing, and the right thing, is to fix the problem. We need to get the amateur game and the professional game separated. The amateur unions should not run the professional sides and the professional outfits should not run the amateur clubs. This is a problem in rugby all over the world, as if that’s any consolation.

    • Spot on Slider … I do think there is scope for Rob to fight the blazer brigade a little harder, but you are 100% re him being appointed rather than elected … Yes, the two sides should not really interfere with each other, but the fact of the matter is that the money from the pro side of the union allows these clubs to exist. Would you give money to someone and then not want a say in how they use it?

  11. Professional players governed and managed by Amateur administrators!

    Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose…….

  12. Hey Tank, glad to see you found your voice! Excellent article regarding some insane decisions in WP rugby, the most inexplicable being the keeping of the well-past-his-sell-by-date Habana and letting our promising youngsters go to the Bulls.
    I see WP rugby admin being overtaken by a certain group the way WP cricket admin has been.
    Samoosas and rotis at half-time?

  13. Dear SLIDER & TANK,

    We suggest that you have an interview with the Chairman of the Board, The Honourable Mr Victor Christians and the President Mr Tobie Titus who is to retire later this year. They will provide you with all the relevant FACTS.
    For additional information you must also liaise with Learned Mr Peter Liddiard (Remgro), John Bester (Head of Audit also a SA Cricket Official), Thelo Wakefield (Chairman of the Remuneration Committee), Zelt Marais (Head of Finance) and Peter Jooste (Chairman of the Rugby Institute)