WP coach: All players want to stay

Western Province and Stormers coach John Dobson says there is unanimous buy-in from ‘all players’ who have indicated a desire to remain with the union and franchise. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

On Tuesday, WP chairman Ebrahim Rasool, alongside Dobson, addressed the media to provide an update on a wide range of ‘pertinent matters’.

In his opening address, Rasool stated that there had been a full-day board meeting on Saturday, where open discussions had been held to discuss the way forward and address the ‘issues and perceptions’ that have plagued WP Rugby of late.

This followed a tumultuous end to last week when WP Rugby first faced the news that Flyt Property Investment would be seeking ‘damages’ from the WPRFU over reneging on an agreement signed in June 2020, while American consortium MVM Holdings pulled out of negotiations around a prospective investment.

Those latest setbacks came after a long line of issues that have come to light, prompting the formulation of what was labelled on Tuesday as a ‘practical and credible action plan’.

‘We want to act in a way that indicates we are pursuing a path of excellence, not only on the field, but off it in the boardrooms as well,’ Rasool said. ‘We are making pivotal changes, aimed at excellence.

‘Off-the-field actions must be underpinned by sound governance and good leadership, while seeking to achieve the goal of sustaining a world-class rugby team, capable of at least being in the final of the Currie Cup next year, and a major contender for international competitions in the season after.

‘Player happiness and security must be linked with financial accountability and sustainability, transparent governance, engagement with stakeholders, and goals of inclusive transformation.’

While this sounds good in principle, Rasool was pressed on a number of concerns that have arisen in WP Rugby circles, most recently exacerbated by the fears of a player fallout after the collapse of the MVM deal.

For some time, it has been reported that a number of the Stormers’ senior players were resistant to negotiate contract extensions until there is certainty about long-term stability on and off the field.

And now with the prospect of a potential deal between MVM and the Sharks – instead of WP – going through, it’s even been rumoured that someone such as captain Siya Kolisi – a high-profile Roc Nation representative – could be drawn to move to Durban.

READ: American investors look to Sharks

However, Dobson moved to explain the productive talks that had taken place, speaking to the media effectively as a representative of the ‘on-field’ group.

‘We are enthused and excited by recent developments,’ he said. ‘We have had some tough times out there in the media, but as a playing group we know that are blessed – due to the goodwill of shareholders and the board – with a world-class team. We have not been in the business of acquiring [players] from outside, but we want to retain [the talent we have].

‘Under the chairman’s guidance, we’ve engaged with every single player and all have indicated a desire to stay – and that’s a great reflection on the union and franchise. This strategy of the board will give enormous confidence to the players to retain their futures here.’

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Craig Lewis