Over the past 3 years WP Rugby and senior Professional Coach Rassie Erasmus have looked to build on and put in place structures to ensure player identification and development in the province.
The WP Rugby Institute in Stellenbosch has ensured that the pick of our young players leaving school are prepared for the rigours of professional rugby and the WP U19 results (2009 semi -final and 2010 champions) bears immediate testament to the work being done there.
The WP U21 ranks then represent a further learning and development step and again these testing grounds are demonstrating success with WP U21 securing a semifinal in 2009 and ending as champions in 2010.
These structures are also now producing players capable of playing at the highest levels with an unprecedented 11 young WP Rugby Institute players making their senior debut at Super Rugby level this year for the DHL Stormers, racking up a combined 53 caps, many of them before even securing a Currie Cup cap for WP.
At senior level the structures have started to produce depth and results, providing the DHL Stormers with their first silverware this season in the Super Rugby Conference Winners trophy. Whilst many don’t acknowledge the value of this trophy, the fact is the Stormers beat all of the SA franchises, on a strength v strength, home and away basis, with all international players playing, losing only 1 game to the Bulls along the way. Few can argue that at domestic level there is any tougher competition. Despite not qualifying for a final this year, as they did last year, the DHL Stormers exited at semifinal stage, having finished second on the log, in undoubtedly the toughest competition in world rugby. That despite overwhelming injuries in key positions.
“Our player philosophy revolves around a core senior playing group and an extended group of younger players that are there to gain experience and learn, whilst providing the depth crucial to being able to compete in Super Rugby.” says Rassie Erasmus. “Our progress this season was largely due to the quality of the core senior players and the depth of quality youngsters that we managed to bring through our structures.”
Contracting season has now opened and Rassie Erasmus remains confident that there will be no player exodus from the WP ranks. “It’s quite the opposite actually. We are busy with something special here and the players sense that. Our senior players are committed to that process and this rubs off on the youngsters. Unfortunately inevitably we will lose one or two on the way and this is what people tend to focus on rather than the bigger success at all levels and the permanent structures now in place to ensure future competitiveness and success. WP and the Stormers are in a good place at the moment, we have a core of young players coming through the ranks adding to our depth and we are approaching our tipping point, which will bring the much wanted senior silverware.”
“Given our player structures are now producing some of the country’s finest young talent, other Unions will inevitably look to shop in our backyard. Whilst there is a genuine spirit of loyalty to the WP and Stormers brands, given the path these youngsters follow, rugby is a professional sport and certain players will look to follow the money and promises offered by others. Our offers are competitive and provide a mapped out player career path for each player. Unfortunately that is sometimes not enough! We however will not look to compromise our principles and will remain true to processes we have put in place. We will look to contract the best and those with the passion and desire to be part of what we all believe is something special that is happening here.”
“A case in point in Johann Sadie – a true product of WP Rugby, Sadie has represented WP U16 Grant Khomo, WP U18 Academy, WP U18 Craven Week, WP Vodacom Cup and the DHL Stormers. Johann attended the WP Rugby Institute in 2008, where his talent and skills were worked on and he was prepared for a career in pro-rugby in the Western Province. He has been through the ranks and is thus very much a son of WP Rugby. Johann has been offered a contract by WP and by the Bulls and we hope that he decides to stay in the WP ranks.”