As I sat in the cinema watching Moneyball I couldn’t help but notice certain similarities between the Oakland Athletics and my beloved Stormers. By no means should the Stormers be classified as “minnows” and the Athletics’ budget in comparison with a team like the Boston Red Sox bares more resemblance between the ratio of a team like the Puma’s budget to one of SA’s big five (no, not the animals).
Player retention and actually winning games are the obvious common denominators. News of Jaque Fourie’s decision not to return to the Cape next year sent fans reeling. Fourie is one of ten players that Western Province Rugby has lost this year alone. Over the past few years WP Rugby lost enough players to field two 22 man squads (full list available here).
Subsequently, not only has WP failed to retain senior players but a large number of youngsters who were supposed to lead us out of “the dark ages”. Instead they opted out and honestly who can blame them? The Stormers have never won a tournament and Western Province hasn’t seen the Currie Cup in ten years.
I don’t think I can stomach another “but look at how far we’ve come” speech from management. A quote from Moneyball (which I will be using should the coaching staff try it again this season) really summed it up for me, “If you don’t win the last game of the series, nobody cares.” Allister Coetzee and Mr Tobie Titus can try to spoon-feed us this silver lining nonsense but if you’re standing at the end of a season without a trophy it means nothing.
I love my team. I’ve stuck by them through thick and thin. So you know when I refuse to renew my season ticket that there is a problem. The decision to raise season ticket prices was not well thought out. Who in their right mind would pay over R2000 to watch, let’s face it, a depleted team play substandard rugby?
The second that WP Rugby were informed that Newlands would not be hosting a Tri-Nations match, a decision to keep season tickets the same price (if not lower them) should have been made. Newlands is said to have one of the highest and most consistent attendance. I fear that this will no longer be the case should they continue to focus on filling their pockets rather than their trophy cabinets.
The president of WP Rugby threw his toys out of the cot when SARU chose not to give Newlands a Tri-Nations match, which in my opinion demonstrates the need to reshuffle management’s priorities. The Tri-Nations and the Springboks should be the last of their concerns. In fact, it stands to reason that that WP Rugby’s only concern should be WP Rugby. Developing and retaining the next generation of champions, ensuring that club rugby is at a level where should a player be injured, there are five more players who are ready and able to slot in… that should be their focus.
However these are all issues that the men in suits need to solve. Naturally the severe lack of silverware should not rest on management’s shoulders alone. Too often we see the Stormers/ WP start the season with a bang just to fizzle out at the end. We have witnessed players becoming frantic and as they seem to forget everything they have been taught when the pressure mounts.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to remain calm and stick to your game plan and structures. TRUST YOUR COACH. If the plan of actions becomes obsolete he will tell you to deviate. If he does not – then it’s time to get a new coach. Perhaps a change in management and the coaching staff is what the Stormers need to get that wake up call that they so desperately need. A fresh perspective can do wonders for any team.
Unless the Stormers management, coaches and players are ready to change their mindsets and the way that they approach the game, they can expect history to repeat itself.