Gert Smal has been appointed Western Province director of rugby on a three-year deal. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The appointment was confirmed at Newlands Rugby Stadium on Monday afternoon, with Western Province Rugby Football Union president Thelo Wakefield and Smal himself fronting the press.
Significantly, neither current Stormers coach Allister Coetzee nor his assistant coaches were in attendance.
Wakefield seemed genuinely surprised with media suggestions that the appointment was a knee-jerk reaction following the Stormers' struggles in 2014. The Cape franchise has lost five of its six matches this season, and recently completed a tour to Australasia without a single victory.
Wakefield insisted that appointing a director of rugby had always been on the cards since the WPRFU board discussed the restructuring of the union back in January.
The long-term futures of Coetzee, Matt Proudfoot, Robbie Fleck and other members of the Stormers coaching staff are at this point unclear. Wakefield said that the Stormers coaching staff would remain as is for the time being until Smal completed his assessment of the union's structures.
Wakefield refused to comment on the speculation that Vodacom Cup coach John Dobson would replace Coetzee as WP coach in the coming Currie Cup.
SARugbymag.co.za asked Smal about what he felt was missing at present, and he admitted that he didn't have a definitive answer.
Coetzee will remain as coach of the Stormers and will report to Smal. The new director of rugby met with current coaching staff on Monday morning and will be assessing this group more over the coming weeks.
Smal will oversee all aspects of rugby at the union. This includes the philosophy and culture of the teams, as well as the contracting and recruitment of junior and senior players.
While he stressed that there would be no quick fix, he said that he hoped the Stormers could build some momentum and finish the season well.
'My job at the moment is to offer the coaches support,' Smal said. 'We can't change too much at this stage, because it will confuse the players.'
When pushed, Smal admitted that the Stormers' attacking failings was 'a burning issue' that needed to be addressed.
'I want them to play typical WP and Stormers rugby. They've been coached to play in a very structured way over the past few years,' he said. 'I want them to play more of a 15-man game, to be more unpredictable. I want the players to express themselves.'
Smal reiterated that while changes would be implemented, they would be implemented gradually.
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images
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