Venter is Stormers’ best option

The Stormers will make important changes to their management team in the coming week, and should start by appointing Brendan Venter as their head of operations, writes JON CARDINELLI.

It has been reported in the Cape media that the Stormers coaching staff of Allister Coetzee, Matt Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck met with Western Province Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield in Brisbane on Sunday. The Stormers have lost four of their past five matches, and all three of their matches in Australasia. Wakefield has said that the time has come to effect the necessary changes that will reverse the trend and reinstall the Cape side as one of the best teams in Vodacom Super Rugby.

It's a change that is long overdue. The Stormers first showed signs of stagnating in 2011 and have regressed in 2014. Part of this is down to the limitations of the coaching staff, and part of it is down to the fact that they are yet to fill the void left by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who left the franchise in early 2012.

The Stormers' administration are just as culpable as the management team for the state of the Cape side. Coetzee has shown that he is not good enough to head up a big franchise, but he has been done no favours by the administrators who have insisted that he fulfill the duties of a head coach and director of rugby simultaneously.

It's a mess, and there are plenty to blame within the corridors of the Stormers HQ. There is, however, a solution that could put the Cape side back on track.

Change is long overdue, but at least the Stormers administration have finally admitted that there is a problem. Wakefield said that the changes would be confirmed on 31 March, a day after the Stormers return from their Australasian tour.

While it may be too late to salvage their season, they need to think about finishing the competition on an encouraging note. They need to restore some pride in the jersey and then build on that momentum into the 2015 season.

Former Springbok and Ireland assistant coach Gert Smal as well as ex-Sharks director of rugby Brendan Venter have been mentioned as candidates for the Stormers' director of rugby position. Again, it's a post that should have been filled two years ago, but let's count ourselves lucky that the Stormers suits have finally accepted that the situation is dire.

Venter turned Saracens around when joining the English club in 2009, and they continue to thrive on the structures he put in place.

The Sharks finished eighth in the 2013 Super Rugby tournament. Venter was brought in thereafter and appointed Sharks director of rugby. He transformed that side into a team that could not only win the Currie Cup, but challenge for the Super Rugby title. Yes, Jake White has put his own touch on the Sharks, but the Durban side is still benefiting from the platform laid by Venter.

Venter has also been involved with the Stormers before. He has a relationship with the coaches and understands the team culture. He could be the man the franchise needs to produce a turnaround. Even if he were to step in on a temporary basis, his track record suggests that he's capable of getting results and making a change in a short space of time.

What of Coetzee? I have been critical of the Stormers coach in recent years, but perhaps he can still serve the team's cause, albeit in a different capacity.

He was part of the Bok management team when the national side won the 2004 Tri-Nations and the 2007 World Cup. He was also a key member of the backroom staff when Erasmus first joined the Stormers and was head coach when the Cape side progressed to the Super 14 final in 2010.

He is not a bad coach, but he is not a director of rugby. Coetzee's record shows that he can be a necessary piece of the puzzle. What his record also shows, however, is that he cannot be the central piece of the puzzle.

Venter can serve that purpose, and the Stormers would do well to bring him into the fold. Whether he has the appetite for the politics of rugby in the Western Cape is another story, but the Stormers desperately need a man of his expertise at the helm.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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