Cape Town – The words for me before Christmas from someone at the top of the professional team hierarchy at the Newlands rugby camp still echo in my mind.
"We could be another (Southern) Kings before you know it."
In terms of immediate absorption, the statement seemed a bit dramatic to me: Rugby in the Western Cape, both in depth of talent and grassroots support strength, has always been heavier – perhaps even the most rugged rugby region in the whole South Africa. ? – before and during the professionalism than in the poor cousin of Port Elizabeth and the surroundings.
But as things get to a potentially ruinous boil inside the tense and violent corridors of WP Rugby this week, the suggestion suddenly seems significantly closer to being feasible.
It can be argued that, after about 65 days since his confirmation as the new president of the union contested in cash and more broadly, temperamental Zelt Marais faces imminent one of the most important points of its duration, whatever its duration.
At the center of all this is his willingness to install Paul Treu, possibly with some stealth, in the strategic position – or at least something of a similar elevation – of rugby director, the cradle currently occupied by an iconic rugby figure in the aged stadium. Gert Smal.
Springbok's tough arcade No. 7, a Western Province player for a healthy part of the Jan Pickard-era glory days each year between 1982 and 1986, and guardian of the post at Newlands since 2014, is clearly in risk. Under the Marais Regime – something that caught my attention for the first time at Sport24 in mid-November, when the austere administrator, then vice president, began to increase the position for the hotter seat as a replacement for Thelo Wakefield.
In a union famous for a particularly thick tail (the base of more than 100 amateur clubs) shaking the professional dog, Marais by all accounts limited the election victory over the challenger Peter Jooste, the national selector, former SARU captain and rugby more pronounced. man ", if you like, in the race.
But if young Treu (47, therefore 10 years younger than Smal) is nominated for a boarding role at WP Rugby – his greatest reputation was by far as a player or coach of SA Sevens in 1999 and 2013 – has become of almost irrelevant concern due to more recent and highly publicized tensions in the field of Stormers, where he has served Robbie Fleck.
Treu stated last year during the rinse process of a disappointing Super Rugby 2018 campaign that he had been the victim of discrimination within the intelligence – forcing an independent investigation by a law firm.
Players were drawn into the process (only making them increasingly awkwardly "personal" and potentially divided) before the discovery that Treu's allegations were unfounded.
The ongoing accommodation of the supposedly impaired figure within the 2019 training team has almost inevitably been a source of great delicacy and discomfort: my understanding in a moment of unprecedented intrigue and nervously buttoned lips is that any leap from Treu to a The command's position on the panel would fall like the proverbial lead balloon among most of the senior core of the Stormers game team.
According to rugby website Gavin Rich of SuperSport, a team of rugby players, a group of worried, possibly even mutilated players, including Bok's captain and the critical public appeal figure in Newlands Siya Kolisi, had emergency powers . Wow, at a time when there should ideally be a greater focus on more specific subjects in rugby.
It may represent the most tangible demonstration of capetonian "power of the players" or at least off-field activism since the dramatic events of nearly 20 years ago – in 1999 – when retail tycoon Raymond Ackerman intervened at the last minute to help. Avoid a financial incentives strike at the Stormers field on the eve of their semi-final (rendered) against the Highlanders.
An essential part of the player's action involved alerting DHL, Stormers' top official sponsors, to their current grievances … and the gigantic logistics company supposedly advising that they could pull the plug if Treu was not withdrawn (something that apparently would fly in face of the spiritual desires of restructuring the Marais) of the system.
Curiously, there was not exactly a tumult of clear denial about it since the officialdom at the time I wrote it; A Tuesday statement carefully drafted by WP Rugby simply indicated that they retained "full support from all major sponsors."
DHL has been a major sponsor of WP / Stormers and Newlands Stadium since early 2011, and the loss of its support may be cataclysmic for a union already mired in serious financial risk on several fronts.
Despite the side shows, the 2019 Stormers on paper, however, probably have sufficient depth and quality in enough positions to mount a fairly credible challenge for both the bragging rights of the conference and the previously elusive Super Trophy Rugby as a whole.
But if the players in the squad enter the fray because of the past, the season may unfold innocently again, when what is desperately needed is the kind of pressure that begins to draw crowds of 40 people. More than 10,000 back through the turnstiles consistently for the first time since Allister Coetzee's tenure as the head coach.
It turns out that a series of genuinely star-shaped Newlands (or read: the core of the Springbok package) is out of contract after this season and inevitably strongly linked to profitable overseas business; this includes Messrs. Kitshoff, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Du Toit and Kolisi.
Other test players like Damian de Allende and Bongi Mbonambi are also coming to terms with the franchise's current contracts.
Let's just say that it would be highly unlikely that the current tricks persuaded many of them to come up with new terms closer to the long-standing home.
Things are swinging gently in WP Rugby: they can go either way, maybe even extremes.
Given its history and long-standing muscle, any multifaceted implosion in Newlands would strike almost as much into the heart of South African fabric in sport – and in times already immensely challenging at SA Rugby headquarters, about 20 km away N1 in Plattekloof.
Extremely clever, the quid pro quo-conscious policy seems to be the only way out of the current WP Rugby Pickle.
No pressure, Mr. Marais …
* Follow our lead writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing