The problems at Western Province Rugby are layered, and everyone involved needs to step up to be accountable, writes JAMES DALTON.
I never want to give players a back door when they haven’t been doing their job, nor do I believe the coaches should get one either. But, when we look at Western Province, let’s consider the multiple issues at play.
Zelt Marais inherited a mess, he did not create it, and in the most absurd year WP now also face their final year at Newlands. There is no way that the impending departure from Province’s home of rugby, a stadium with such a colourful history and wonderful stories, does not play on the mind of the coaching staff and players and add to the uncertainty around the brand of Western Province rugby at the moment.
But a team or province’s brand is ultimately built on their performances, and Western Province’s performances don’t speak of a strong brand. The current side is also damaging the strong historic brand of Western Province rugby with every poor decision and lacklustre performance.
There is a lack of creativity and an inadequacy in adapting to a game when it’s going against their structure. Playing as Western Province in this year’s Currie Cup, as well as the Stormers in Super Rugby Unlocked, the Capetonian players have looked unconditioned and uninterested.
Where is the accountability from the players themselves, and where is the accountability from Dobson and co? I have a lot of respect for Dobbo, but he is simply not getting it right this season. The performances have decreased in quality since Super Rugby Unlocked, and there seems to be continued poor player selection and management, and a refusal to look beyond a gameplan that revolves around simply a strong scrum.
I’ve said it time and time again, but when the Stormers’ scrum is negated, they are unable to adapt or produce anything else. There is a lack of fluidity in the backline, poor cohesion between backs and forwards and the players are not conditioned.
Dobbo also needs to put loyalty aside and drop players who are out of form. Both Damian Willemse and Herschel Jantjies are bright young talents who have shown glimpses of what could be in the future, but neither have been good this year. Their continued lack of form calls for a rest for them and an opportunity for other players – they can only learn from the experience.
Then there is captain Siya Kolisi, whose best performances have been off the field this year. Kolisi has been nowhere near the inspirational captain who led the Boks to World Cup victory in 2019 and, when he hasn’t been injured this year, his performances haven’t ranked among the best loose forwards in SA.
Rumours now that Kolisi, among other marquee players, may be leaving Province amid MVM Holdings’ withdrawal from talks with WP and apparent interest in the Sharks, also do nothing to inspire confidence in him as someone currently interested in the state of Western Province Rugby.
Looking at the other players, the seven Springboks in the Stormers side need to remember that it was an entire squad that won the World Cup, not just the seven of them. Their complacent performances suggest otherwise, and they need to remember that none of them are guaranteed a Springbok spot in 2021 if their performances can’t warrant one.
The dark cloud that hangs over Western Province Rugby can be fixed only with accountability, from all the moving parts of the union.
This accountability is needed to ensure that a fresh start at a new stadium revives and grows the Western Province brand from next year – and not be left to lie in the Newlands rubble to become history.
Administrators need to stop off-field antics from creeping into on-field performances. Dobbo and his coaching staff need to make some tough decisions in selection, go back to the basics of conditioning and discipline and on-field adaptability. And the players need to get their heads right, get their bodies right and start playing for their union.
Because as soon as Springbok selection was not an option this year, players’ domestic form dropped, and that is simply not good enough in a country with such a rich history of domestic rugby.