Fleck departs Stormers with dignity after a tumultuous time
Robbie Fleck’s tenure as Stormers coach came to an end in a depressingly familiar way – so close yet so far – but he departs with dignity after overseeing a team in a time of instability at the club.
The Stormers conceded a try in the 82nd minute to lose 12-9 to the Sharks on Saturday in their final Pool match of 2019‚ which eliminated the Cape side from the play-offs for a second straight year.
In a season of near misses‚ this was one of the most agonising losses for Fleck’s team‚ which was makeshift at best by the final whistle.
Injuries have decimated the squad. Before Saturday’s game the Stormers went into the match without Siya Kolisi‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ JD Schickerling‚ Herschel Jantjies‚ Juarno Augustus‚ Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ Kobus van Dyk‚ Sergeal Petersen‚ Daniel du Plessis and SP Marais.
They then lost lock Cobus Wiese and No 8 Jaco Coetzee during the match while flank Johan du Toit played with cracked ribs and fullback Dillyn Leyds with torn thumb ligaments.
At 43 Fleck is a young coach and having been thrust into the Stormers job as a raw rookie almost four years ago‚ the fact that his side made the play-offs twice in four campaigns suggests that he has potential. What he didn't have was a mentor and a stabile organisation to behind him.
His Stormers won 33 games‚ lost 29 and drew two in his time in charge‚ which is not a disgraceful return. If you consider Swys de Bruyn‚ lauded as an astute coach‚ has overseen 20 wins and 16 defeats at the Lions after taking over a team that had been in two Super Rugby finals‚ then Fleck’s return has not been terrible.
He moves on with dignity after taking the job in difficult circumstances when Eddie Jones jilted the Stormers after a week in the job in late 2015.
Fleck has also been at the helm at a time when the Stormers organisation has been under immense off field strain with massive financial problems and leadership battles. Uncertainty over player contracting and wages being unpaid‚ added to the problems.
“I and the players want to thank Fleckie because he has been a great coach‚” captain Steven Kitshoff said. “He has been involved at the Stormers throughout my entire career year and I have always looked up to him.
“It’s really disappointing that we were not able to give him a full crack at the Super Rugby title. Losing in the last seconds of the game is a really bad feeling.
“But I have to credit Fleckie with the amount of hard work he has put in‚ and for all the work he does for the players on and off the field.”
Fleck will continue to support John Dobson in the Currie Cup competition until his contract ends on October 31.
“I will take a short break from coaching after the Currie Cup and hopefully go for a surfing trip in Bali or something‚” Fleck said.
“But in the short term we have to do an assessment of the campaign and put plans in place for the Currie Cup.”
He admitted he is ready to take on an assistant coach role in the future‚ under the right head coach‚ to continue to learn‚ but it seems his future lies overseas as SA is set to lose another young coach with a wealth of hard-earned experience.