Stormers … Plastering over cracks?

Bringing in a Director of Rugby and a shrink smacks of papering over the cracks says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column, who believes it is time for a complete overhaul of all structures, including the constitution. 

Ever heard of Graham Mackenzie? Thought not … He is the president of the KZN Rugby Union. Ever heard of Thelo Wakefield?

Ever heard of Rob Wagner? Perhaps a few of you … He is the CEO of the WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd. Ever heard of John Smit?

And therein lies the fundamental flaw at the heart of the myriad of issues facing the Cape based union … The wrong guys are on the front and back pages of the paper!

In 1996, the commercial arm, WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, was created to deal with the growing interest from the public, media, sponsors and players, and to maximize commercial opportunities. Clever.

Not so clever, though is the fact that the WP Rugby Football Union, a non-profit organization that still reeks of the amateur days, remains the major shareholder in WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

So you have a governing body that relies on votes from the amateur clubs (all 91 of them, each with an equal vote, meaning that the largest rugby club in the world, Maties, has the same clout as a club in the 3rd division who struggles to get just one team out each Saturday), and thus perhaps more concerned about garnering votes rather than administering the actual rugby, having the major stake in the commercial arm of the union – the arm that should be running the show in today’s professional era!

Hence the much talked about boardroom politics that saw Rassie Erasmus depart the union saying that he was spending more time fighting the politics than he was on rugby, and sees the coaches having to defend their teams to the blazer brigade, based not on skill level but ethnicity and the club they play for.

It is just typical of the union to have a little Sunday meeting on tour and then openly hint at plans to overhaul the management team. Just imagine what that does for team unity … It’s no wonder that captain Jean de Villiers has voiced his concern and expressed his disappointment at the swirling rumours. The core is fundamentally flawed and rotten!

Having chosen not to fill the post of High Performance Manager after the departure of Erasmus, the role – surely vital in a pro era – has been shared amongst the coaches and administration, meaning they spend less time preparing the team for the game on Saturday.

But that seems set to change from Monday, with Gert Smal seemingly coming as Director of Rugby, and Henning Gericke, a psychologist who worked with the Springboks when they won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, set to come in as the “kopdokter”.

So not a “High Performance Manager” brought in to manage player affairs away from the four white lines, but a traditional Director of Rugby that will see head coach Allister Coetzee have to move into the shadows under a new boss! That is very different to a Brendan Venter or a Jake White coming in above a young head coach like Brad MacLeod-Henderson who is there to learn.

I was very privileged to get my first few games for WP at the time when Smal was playing his last few games for the blue and white, most of them on a tour to Australia and New Zealand. He is a top man with an excellent rugby brain, but this is a big ask!

And bringing in a shrink who worked with the 2007 Boks and now pimps himself out on the speaker circuit? Why not try something new and innovative? Young and switched on sports mental coach, Tom Dawson-Squibb from Head Start Sport has done an incredible job with the Ikeys in the Varsity Cup this year …

Look, change is without doubt needed … I have been saying so for a good few years now. A lucky Currie Cup win and 2 Super Rugby conference cups in the last 13 years is just not good enough for a union that has access to so much talent.

The “Great wall of Cape Town” defensive game plan that sees the Stormers unable to score tries, and mostly via the legalised obstruction of a lineout drive when they do, is simply not good enough.

But bringing in a Director of Rugby and a shrink smacks of papering over the cracks. It is time for a complete overhaul of all structures, including the constitution.


  1. Well analysed, Tank, I cannot agree with you more. I fear the so-called changes are only going to be cosmetic. Aren’t we having an election of officials again this year ? Go figure.
    We the supporters are the true custodians of rugby in the Western Province, and it is time we stand together and stop the rot. Boycott games, and hit them in the pocket until they listen to us and affect meaningful change. If we fail to act, we have only ourselves to blame if the situation continues.

  2. Wow! Tank, excellent article. This may well get you banned from entering Newlands Rugby Stadium in future.

  3. Hi Tank
    FINALLY somebody have the balls to stand up and call a spade a spade!! Im so gatvol of everybody whispering about our problems. This is propably the best article i’ve red in the past two years. Straight and to the point! How is it possible that all of us (and some much less qualified in rugby than you) can see what is wrong but the idiots in the boardroom cant! I know it is propably a taboo subject, but another truth is that WP rugby is rotten with racial conflict, and this is also evedent in the Crusader supporters that call themselves south africans! Fire the bloody lot, wakefield,wagner,ect,fleck,proudfoot, And coetzee! Only then can we start over and say that we are in a rebuilding fase! Then us as fans will tollerate a few losses, but atleast we would know what we are working towards. I honestly feel that we as fans should boycot the home games to show our unhappyness. But then again Wakefield is so thickskinned he will just sell of a few more assets to make the books balance!! Jissie man im so gatvol of these politics, all we want is good rugby on the field and a team and culture to be proud of and brag about during the week.

    Thanks for your inputs Tank
    Kind regards
    Arie Meiring
    Huge(although gatvol) WP fan

  4. Can’t agree more with your statements, know you have been saying this for some time now as well.

  5. Couldn’t agree more Tank – but Heather’s right – “talks cheap but money buys the whiskey”. Everyone’s been talking the talk for years.

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