New era looms for WP rugby

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iol spt mar30 John Dobson Gallo Images John Dobson is expected to be named Western Province's Currie Cup coach. Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

A new era in Western Province rugby is likely to begin today as Gert Smal is set to be unveiled as a director of rugby, while John Dobson is believed to be in line to take over the Currie Cup job.

And while Allister Coetzee is set to continue as the Stormers head coach, there are question marks around the futures of his assistants, Matt Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck. All three are contracted to WP until the end of next year.

The Stormers arrived back home last night from their winless tour of New Zealand and Australia following their latest defeat to the Reds. And things won’t get any easier against the Waratahs at Newlands on Saturday (7.10pm kickoff).

WP Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield told the Cape Times last week that there would be changes to the team management, and this past Saturday’s 22-17 loss to the Reds in Brisbane would’ve served to reinforce Wakefield’s belief that change is necessary.

Exactly what powers the 52-year-old Smal will have as the director of rugby is set to be explained at a press conference today at Newlands. The Cape Times understands that Smal was to meet with Wakefield late last night to finalise the details of his deal.

When asked about the imminent changes to the team management and whether having worked with Smal previously would make things easier, Coetzee told the Cape Times from Brisbane: “I think we will probably speak on Monday about that, but my focus is still the same – I need to get the team back on track. My focus is still to make sure this team is well prepared and (to) keep fighting.

“With the changes everyone has spoken about, we will hear on Monday about it and take it from there. I’m never scared of change; I’ve never been a person that is scared of change.”

With an almost never-ending list of injuries – Gio Aplon dislocated his elbow against the Reds – a fifth defeat in six games and his position being under threat, few would blame Coetzee if he had to say he’s had enough. But the 50-year-old was adamant that he wanted to continue as the Stormers coach.

“I will never give up. That’s one thing we as a group here ... We will fight until the bitter end. We are looking forward to coming home as we have seven home games left, and if you look at our record at Newlands, we’ve won 34 out of the last 40 Super Rugby games. So there is still a lot to play for,” he said.

“We had a long chat about it, and if there was no effort in it from the players or something, which is something you can’t coach, or you lose your change-room, that’s something you can’t get back.

“But at this point in time, this team is still very tight and the management is still very tight. We know exactly where it’s going wrong, and we are determined to fix it and determined to get a win under the belt. That’s all this team needs.

“It’s nought from four on tour, but in every game, it’s not as if we have been outplayed. It’s been a close match going into the last five minutes of every game.”

While Dobson’s possible appointment as the WP Currie Cup coach may not be announced today, it is understood that he may relieve Coetzee in that role this season. Dobson is currently in charge of the WP Vodacom Cup side.

The former UCT mentor may be assisted by the experienced Nazeem Adams, who is the WP Under-19 coach.

It is believed that Smal may already be looking to bring in an attack coach to address the Stormers’ dearth of tries, which could place Fleck’s position in jeopardy. And with Smal being a forwards specialist, and Dobson in line for a promotion from the Vodacom Cup to the Currie Cup team, Proudfoot’s role could become complicated.

In terms of the support staff, it is believed that team doctor Arthur Williams’s position is under scrutiny, and former Springbok mental coach Henning Gericke is set to be brought into the set-up soon. - Cape Times


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