How to fix Sormers?

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Tank Lanning takes a look at the on-going speculations concerning WP Rugby Union.

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 maximise commercial opportunities. Clever.

Not so clever, though is the fact that the WP Rugby Football Union, a non-profit organisation 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 third 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 two 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.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

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  1. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    With all due respect… the dunder-head Lanning should be the last person on earth having any input into how to ‘fix’ the Stormer’s… one only needs to read any of his columns in the last three years!

  2. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    @bryce_in_oz: But all of us know it is true what he is saying in this piece Bryce

  3. avatar

    Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa

    March 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    @bryce_in_oz: whats your solution?

    Me I favour the firing squad for the leadership and that kak coach…such a big rich talented well supported union to be so kak, almost a mirror of Springbok rugby, ohh look we have one of the best defences…ag kak man win or find some one that can.

    Boycott mediocrity

  4. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    They can bring in the pope or Jesus himself to coach the team or become director of rugby, it will not help one bit.

  5. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Dis n bietjie Gods lasterlik gewees Morne, not cool.

  6. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Funny how the whole world is afraid of offending anyone but God.

  7. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm


    Dit was ‘n expression. Ek het nie enige geloof aangeval, gekritisseer of beledig nie so ek verstaan nie hoekom jy offense vat nie.

    Maar die intensie was nie om mense die moer in te maak nie, sorry.

  8. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    It’s cool Morne, I probably take offence to easily, but it is something that I take seriously. No worries though, I wont die from it.

  9. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm


    Sweet pal.

  10. avatar


    March 27, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    The problem of small clubs having the same say as big ones at the union is replicated at SARU level also.

    People and entities act in their own self interest and the interest of the small clubs or unions has almost no alignment to the interests of the premier teams.


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