Coet­zee has much to think about in sum­mer on get­ting WP back on track

Satur­day Com­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

HEN it comes to rea­sons for Capeto­ni­ans to be de­pressed, the ex­clu­sion of New­lands from the In­dian cricket tour and the be­hav­iour of pro­test­ers in the city cen­tre on Wed­nes­day far out­weigh the de­par­ture of the Cur­rie Cup tro­phy on a flight des­tined for Dur­ban last Sun­day.

In­deed, see­ing I ar­gued this time last year that Western Prov­ince win­ning the do­mes­tic ti­tle might prove a set­back to their Su­per Rugby hopes, let me be con­sis­tent and say that the op­po­site might be true now. WP have won more than 30 Cur­rie Cup ti­tles down the years, and it doesn’t mean what it used to.

What WP haven’t done is win the Su­per Rugby ti­tle in their other in­car­na­tion as the Storm­ers, and nei­ther have the Sharks. It is the one ev­ery­one wants to win and needs to win now, and I bet that if you asked Jake White why he was mov­ing to Dur­ban and link­ing up with the Sharks, he would tell you that it is be­cause they are a fran­chise ca­pa­ble of win­ning Su­per Rugby.

I doubt very much that White would men­tion the Cur­rie Cup as part of his goal, and it was be­cause he had won the Cur­rie Cup and felt he had new worlds to con­quer that Rassie Eras­mus moved south from Bloem­fontein in 2007.

Su­per Rugby is the Holy Grail, and if last week’s de­feat to the Sharks means that the WP play­ers will go into the sum­mer re­cess less smug than they were this time last year, more aware that not ev­ery­thing they try works and more de­ter­mined to work hard in the off-sea­son, then last week’s re­sult was a good thing.

A 16-match un­beaten run is an in­di­ca­tion that the foun­da­tion is un­de­ni­ably there so just small as­pects of their game need to be fixed.

If the de­feat to the Sharks, and the way it came about, con­firmed to the WP brains trust the folly of hav­ing too many diminu­tive play­ers in the back three, then the loss was a good thing.

I strongly sus­pect that Al­lis­ter Coet­zee knew al­ready that what he got away with in the league stages of the Cur­rie Cup he would not get away with in Su­per Rugby, which is why he is search­ing so hard for a big over­seas wing.

Make no mis­take, Gio Aplon and Ch­es­lin Kolbe are both out­stand­ing play­ers, and I reckon that Kolbe will achieve more in his ca­reer than Aplon has, that is how good he is. But you play one or the other, you don’t play both, or you are go­ing to be dom­i­nated in the aerial bat­tle by ev­ery team that has size­able wings and an ac­cu­rate kick and chase.

And if last week’s re­sult also di­vested at least some WP sup­port­ers of the fan­ci­ful, ro­man­tic no­tion that their team can win tro­phies play­ing the old- fash­ioned run­ning game that was the hall­mark of the golden era of the 1980s, then that is a good thing too. The Sharks and WP this year have traded places in terms of the type of game they try to play.

Last week the Sharks

Whardly played any rugby, they kicked al­most ev­ery ball, and the sta­tis­tics bear it out – the Sharks made sig­nif­i­cantly more tack­les than WP did.

In Dur­ban two weeks ear­lier the teams had to play ping-pong be­cause of the wet weather, and WP pre­vailed. This time Prov­ince thought the dry con­di­tions meant they could give into the peren­nial call for them to “swing it”, and how dumb they were made to look as a con­se­quence.

The Sharks didn’t win be­cause of their for­wards, the early col­li­sions were even. It was only once the Sharks’s tac­ti­cal game started to work, and the WP play­ers found them scram­bling in no-man’s land for chip kicks with swarms of Sharks climb­ing all over them, that ev­ery­thing started to sys­tem­at­i­cally de­struct.

It was the Sharks’s tac­tics that took the WP big men out of the game and ren­dered Eben Etze­beth and Duane Ver­meulen anony­mous.

WP were out-thought, and on the day they were out­coached, and as this is not the first time it has hap­pened in a home play-off, that has to be more of a con­cern to the WP ad­min­is­tra­tors than they are ad­mit­ting.

I would not sack Coet­zee as coach, but I would make changes to the man­age­ment team to bet­ter equip them to take the step up to the next level.

The sys­tems Eras­mus put in place in 2008 have worked in the sense that they have turned WP/ Storm­ers into con­sis­tent con­tenders, but there are mod­i­fi­ca­tions that need to be made if they are to take the step to be­com­ing con­sis­tent cham­pi­ons.

If an aero­plane de­vel­ops prob­lems, the com­pany that owns the plane goes back to the man­u­fac­turer, who works on the mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, WP can’t do that be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tors didn’t gel with Eras­mus’s per­son­al­ity and as a con­se­quence he parted ways with the union.

But while the man­u­fac­turer may not be avail­able, there are other heavy­weight rugby brains around who can do the job of di­rec­tor of rugby, and one of those is the mas­ter­mind of WP’s de­feat last week, Bren­dan Ven­ter.

As he lives in the re­gion, the WP ad­min­is­tra­tion would be do­ing their team’s sup­port­ers a grave dis­ser­vice if they didn’t at least sound out Ven­ter about the pos­si­bil­ity of adding his ex­per­tise as ei­ther a di­rec­tor of rugby or tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, thus fill­ing the void left by Eras­mus’s de­par­ture.

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