Treu: We need to understand different perspectives

Former Blitzboks coach Paul Treu has openly shared his views on systemic issues in SA rugby and the contentious end to his time with Western Province Rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Treu, who was recently appointed as the new head coach at the University of the Western Cape, opened up about a range of topics in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with SA Rugby magazine [Ed’s note: The full interview appears in the latest print issue].

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In 2018, Treu submitted a 26-page document detailing certain grievances to the WP Rugby board, which included instances of purported unfair treatment and led to an independent investigation.

According to WP Rugby, the comprehensive final report made no negative or adverse findings against any of its officers, coaches or staff members.

ALSO READ: Treu investigation clears WP

Certain boardroom wranglings continued through to 2019, with Treu ultimately parting ways with the union.

In a Q&A for the latest SA Rugby magazine, Treu was asked to share his thoughts on the contentious end to his time at Western Province and the Stormers, and explained that there needed to be a change in approach to discussing certain topics that can make people uncomfortable.

‘That whole situation at Western Province could’ve been dealt with so much better, and I think it’s because unions don’t always have proper systems in place when it comes to HR. Sometimes it is either because of a lack of policies or a complete disregard for existing policies.

‘Maybe at Western Province it has changed since I left, but we seem to be reactive in most cases. All I can talk about is the process and why these things happen, which is because we fail to speak to each other about things that are uncomfortable – like what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s because sometimes we fail to listen and understand people’s perspectives, whether we are black or white.

‘Some of these issues are very emotional and so deep-rooted in systemic problems that have been built over centuries, so how are you going to deal with it? I believe those at Western Province who facilitated the entire process were too close to the system, and all I wanted was for a different kind of process to be followed, and for external people to come in and facilitate and mediate the conflict.

‘And if we are talking about systemic or institutional racism, discrimination or equality, how does that person see it and how do I see it? Maybe it’s different because we have different experiences.

‘Especially when it comes to team sport, sometimes we don’t want to talk about these things because you want to be part of the team. And if you’re going to talk about these things, you feel like you’re not buying into the team culture. And if you’re always swimming upstream, you’re seen as a troublemaker.

‘So you suppress those things and don’t want to talk about them and then everything falls apart. One thing happens and it triggers everything. I would say since 1994, we never really addressed these things effectively. Someone summed it up so beautifully the other day – they said when the one flag came down and the other one went up, we thought everything was going to be OK.

‘But it isn’t OK, because we have failed to deal with issues that have been with us for so many years and for so many decades. Unless we’re going to come together and talk about these issues that are making us uncomfortable, and to understand people’s different cultures and perspectives, I can’t see how we’re going to move forward as a nation.’

ALSO READ: ‘Equal together makes us stronger together’

*The full Q&A appears in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!

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Craig Lewis