South African rugby will never move forward until we as the public realise that rugby decisions are not made by rugby people, but rather individuals with personal and political agendas.
If you follow my opinions you will know my utter disdain for all things Western Province and Stormers rugby at the moment. What I came to realise was that my anger is often misdirected at the wrong individuals, as is the case with the Stormers and their new coaching staff.
What we often fail to realise is the direct impact non-rugby, or elected board officials, has on the day-to-day operations (and futures) of coaches and players.
It should not be news to anyone that Gert Smal – a rugby man if there ever was one – wanted John Mitchell for the position of head coach following the sudden departure of Eddie Jones, only to be vetoed and overruled by an elected, club run board of individuals under the presidency of Thelo Wakefield.
The fact that the Stormers lost the opportunity to employ a world class coach, with a decent enough track record and vast international experience, is enough to make any supporter furious. What should be more concerning for the public and supporters, is the position a poor soul like Robbie Fleck has now been put under.
We have all seen this movie before but let me replay it for you…
Stormers start their campaign, they win a couple of close ones against other SA teams, they lose a couple of close ones at home against overseas opposition, comes back from overseas with a 50% win record and desperately try to hang on or fall off the wagon completely towards the end of the campaign when injuries takes its toll.
In this movie who is the man that will carry the brunt of the criticism? Thelo Wakefield? His board of elected officials? Or poor old Robbie Fleck? Rhetorical question.
The point is, why do we allow our rugby to operate in structures where elected board officials, has a direct influence with what happens on the field of play – with NO CONSEQUENCE to their actions or decisions?
Let’s forget the Stormers for a second, and consider what is currently happening at National level and SA Rugby.
We are all pretty familiar with Jurie-Gate and the allegations that has been made against him and the various opinions expressed in the media. I prefer to take a simple stance on this. Up and till the point where the man is criminally charged and found guilty of breaking any type of law, I have no problem with him continuing in his position of CEO at SA Rugby. But why now suspend a guy based on allegations alone that has been known and made public more than a year ago? Forgive me if I smell hidden agendas that will make what has happened at the Stormers look like childs-play.
About a year ago we had a SA Rugby president state quite clearly that he, and the executive of SA Rugby, was happy with the explanation Roux and his legal team provided to the board on these allegations. They were so pleased with his explanation, they extended his contract.
In the last couple of weeks, where some folks decided to rehash the story and information from a year ago (because we just love a good scandal or if there isn’t, we create one), the very same president is seemingly going from pillar to post to try and justify his statements on Roux last year by blaming everyone from the cat to the recruitment agency that recommended Roux to the SARU board four years ago for no other reason than to save his own backside or reputation.
If you have been a supporter in South Africa long enough, the actions of Hoskins will not surprise you. What did however grabbed my attention was the news that as part of Roux’s ‘punishment’, he will no longer drive the recruitment process with the High Performance department for the new Springbok coach, but this responsibility will now fall on solely on Mr. Hoskins himself.
This is where the alarms bells went off and this is where we should all start to become very concerned (see my Stormers example above).
In which parallel universe do we give the responsibility to an elected board official, with (due respect) no experience in any on-field matters at a professional level, to appoint the new National Coach?
Now I am not one for personal attacks on any individual, their ability or character, but if you need reminding of the type of ‘rugby’ decision Mr. Hoskins made in the past I suggest you listen to this old interview he had with John Robbie during the Jake White era with the infamous “Player 46”, Luke Watson.
Then of course there was the statement on Peter de Villiers the moment he was announced publicly to the world as the new Springbok coach where Mr. Hoskins removed any doubt that De Villiers was in fact, a transformation appointment – a tag which followed and haunted him throughout his tenure as he stated in his biography. Interestingly Hoskins after signing off on the appointment of De Villiers removed himself from the responsibility to sign-off on any teams De Villiers selected, which of course removed any accountability he had in the appointment of De Villiers should he fail.
It does not take a genius to figure out that a lot of agendas are currently playing out in SA Rugby, whether it is to get rid of Roux and appoint a yes-man to removing power from the few rugby people still left in the organisation to serve ego’s and self-interests.
Whatever is at play, we should all be very worried about the future of rugby if elected officials who has nothing more than a ceremonial role to play in the game make decisions that will shape its future.
Written by: Jacques Nortier