The former Stormers head coach, who was Ireland forwards coach for four years and was also a Springbok assistant coach for the same period, returned to Cape Town and has been seen at Newlands – with agents in tow. This website has been reliably told that Smal’s appointment is “a done deal” and will be confirmed next week – once the Stormers return from their disastrous Australasian tour.
There has been persistent rumours in recent weeks that the heads of Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee and backline mentor Robbie Fleck are on the chopping block. However, their roles in the new dispensation has not been clearly defined. WP Rugby Football Union President Thelo Wakefield, who is on tour with the team in Australia at present, has been central to the proposed changes.
He has been coy about the details of the shake-up, but hinted strongly that some management changes would take place. One suggestion has been that the current coaching structure – which include Coetzee, Fleck and forwards coach Matt Proudfoot – will remain in tact for the remainder of the Super Rugby season, but further changes could be in the offing for the Currie Cup competition.
Brendan Venter, a Cape Town resident who masterminded the Sharks’ win over WP in the Currie Cup Final last October, has also been linked to the shake-up. However, this website’s sources said no definitive role has been defined for Venter.
Coetzee was non-committal when asked about the proposed changes.
Speaking in a teleconference call from Brisbane, where the team was preparing to face the Reds in a Round Seven Super Rugby match on Saturday, he admitted to having had a “meeting” with Wakefield on Monday. “However, at this point in time my focus is on the Reds,” the Stormers coach said. “We are preparing to ensure we get a result [victory] this weekend,” he said, adding: “I am not going to comment on the meeting.”
Asked if he was willing to take on board any consultants, Coetzee again produced the ‘no comment’ card. “I am focussed on getting this ship sailing in the right direction. Our focus is on the Reds.” He said team management had a “great meeting” with the players and there is a lot of positivity in the squad. Smal and Coetzee were the assistant coaches of Jake White, when South Africa won the World Cup in 2007.
The 52-year-old Smal, who played six Tests for South Africa between 1986 and 1989, held a number of coaching positions in South Africa – including at the Border Bulldogs (1998 to 1999), Western Province (2000 to 2002, when they twice won the Currie Cup) and then with the Stormers in the Super 12 between 2003 and 2005, reaching the semifinals in 2004.
In 2004, Smal was appointed to the South African team management as assistant coach to Jake White, during which time the Springboks won the Tri-Nations championship in 2004, before winning the 2007 World Cup. In June 2008, Smal was appointed forward coach to the Irish team under Declan Kidney. During Smal’s time at Ireland, they won the 2009 Six Nations, completing the Grand Slam for the first time in 61 years.
His assistance was key in Ireland’s victory over the 2007 World Champions and Tri-Nations champions South Africa during the year-end tour in 2009 – where he taught the Irish pack some Afrikaans so that they could read the opposition’s line-out calls. In June 2011, he signed a contract extension with the IRFU.
Smal was replaced as Ireland forwards coach in 2013 by former Sharks mentor John Plumtree.
Henning Gericke, a psychologist who worked with the Springboks when they won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, is set to help at the Stormers.
The Stormers have only won only one game out of five in this year’s Super Rugby competition and are languishing in 14th spot on the overall log. According to Die Burger’s website, Gericke will be asked to help a team struggling to close out tight games. Gericke is well renowned in his field and also worked with South Africa’s swimming team ahead of the 2012 Olympics, while also working with the Proteas cricket team in the past.
Gericke has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pretoria. His addition could be one of a few changes made in personnel at the union, with former coach Gert Smal expected to be appointed as director of rugby. WP Rugby President Thelo Wakefield indicated there will be changes in personnel but did not state if any of the current coaching staff would be axed.
The Stormers face the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday (10:40 kick-off) in the last game of their Australasian tour.