Director of rugby’s choice overruled by officials
ROBBIE Fleck made all the right noises at his unexpected unveiling as Stormers interim coach at the weekend, despite knowing that his name was not the one put forward to the board by director of rugby Gert Smal.
The Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) hierarchy, headed by president Thelo Wakefield, shot down Smal’s recommendation that former All Blacks head coach John Mitchell should be appointed.
After Eddie Jones left the Stormers in the lurch when he took up an offer from England only a few weeks into his stay in Cape Town, Smal made it clear he would search for a similarly experienced candidate.
Mitchell ticked all the boxes and even flew down to Cape Town to put the finishing touches to the deal.
Smal, left embarrassed by the Jones situation, has now been neutered after elected officials overruled their vastly experienced director of rugby.
If Fleck’s tenure is a failure, will Wakefield and his fellow dissenting board members be accountable?
Smal, after this snub, should seriously reconsider his position as well. Can he work in an organisation that appointed him to make rugby decisions, but then makes them for him anyway?
What is the point of having a director of rugby?
Meanwhile, Fleck is caught in the middle as a new head coach, with inexperienced assistant coaches in Russell Winter and Paul Treu.
Smal is going to have to play a more hands-on coaching role, as he has been doing in the pre-season so far, but that is not his designation.
“Fleckie has Super Rugby experience,” Smal said in reference to Fleck’s six years as Stormers’ assistant coach.
“Eddie left us at an uncomfortable time but we have already put certain things in place from last year when we won the conference.
“The systems are in place so that if someone goes we always have someone who can fill in. I went through the proper process and consulted with everyone, and this is the way we’re going to go.
“Robbie is geared to take the step up, he did an outstanding job with the under-21s.”
Fleck does not appear to lack the confidence and has a good opportunity to make a name for himself, although he might also be in a precarious position if the Stormers do not perform.
“We identified a few areas we needed to improve,” Fleck said.
“One was a big emphasis on creating super athletes. We felt we weren’t fit enough as a side, so we embarked on new training techniques.
“Tactically, we need to play smarter rugby, especially when it comes to our kicking game, and another component was discipline.
“We’ve still got to have that hard edge, but we are going to be smarter, and we certainly are going to have more of a go.”