Final thoughts on the 2005 Vodacom Super 12

PUBLISHED: May 24, 2005

This is my last column in my capacity as coach of the Investec Stormers and I must admit, the last few weeks have been quite emotional for me with all the farewells.

On Saturday at Loftus I had to say goodbye to people who have become part of my family over the last four years that I have been involved with the Stormers.

I had fantastic times and we were successful at stages. I am hugely disappointed that we did not put up a good performance in our last game. We did not do justice to our huge potential on Saturday and we hit a Bulls team that have played their best rugby for many a year.

We also had to bid our farewells to Thelo, Helen, Breyton, Pieter and Carel. I wish them the best of luck with their future endeavours. It was a great pleasure working with all of you.

This year we finished ninth as opposed to last year, when we reached the semifinals. So it goes without saying that it was a hugely disappointing season for the Investec Stormers.

We, however, have no excuses. We just were not good enough. We must learn from these experiences though – not only the players, but also the management team. You have to look at your systems and you have to get it right.

I must give credit to the Bulls. They really played excellently. They built their pack over five years and on Saturday they were at their absolute best.

They completely outplayed us. It was a good performance and they totally took us apart. Our physical component was not good throughout the season.

Teams got far too much momentum and if your first line of defence is not good enough and teams get momentum, you are in trouble.

One of the things Western Province rugby needs to look at is the establishment of a higher performance unit. It should be established as soon as possible.

Players should be prepared for the professional game from a young age so that when they reach Super 12 level, they should know what professional rugby is all about. Talent identification will be absolutely vital here, because you don’t want to waste resources and time on a player that will never make it at Super 12 level.

One of the best decisions WP could make was to appoint a Director of Rugby. There is a vast amount of work to be done. If you coach WP or the Stormers, you just don’t have the time to look at other things.

Lastly, I was severely criticised this season for being anti-transformation and there was also accusations of racism. I was blamed for a supposed lack of black players in the Stormers team.

Those people who have worked with me and know me, would know that I am honest in everything I do and that I do everything in the best interest of WP and the Stormers.

I came from Border, where the majority of the rugby players are black. I was always a priority there and at WP, to address black rugby and give black players a fair chance. We already had four black forwards against the Hurricanes.

As for the future, I have a contract until the end of the year with the Springboks and am busy negotiating an extension to my contract.

Thanks for all the support over the years.


Gert Smal