Tue 1 Apr 2014 | 10:54
Smal support for embattled Coetzee
Tue 1 Apr 2014 | 10:54
Smal support for embattled CoetzeeSHARE
Beleaguered Stormers fans want an immediate turnaround, even demanding the axing of coach Allister Coetzee.
However, his new boss, Gert Smal – who took office as Director of Rugby on Tuesday – has promised only his "support" for the embattled coach and injury-riddled team.
Coetzee and Smal go a long way back, to their time as Springbok assistant coaches under Jake White, from 2004 to 2007.
And even though it has been six years since they last worked together, Smal remembers with fondness the great time they had.
"We've always had great respect for each other and a great working relationship," he said, when asked by this website about working with Coetzee again.
"We respect each other's work ethic – both on and off the field we are good friends."
However, that friendship may be tested if the team doesn't perform and fans will continue to demand immediate improvement in the Stormers' performances – starting against the Waratahs at Newlands on Saturday.
Smal, while again warning against too high expectations in the short term, said he understands the demands on the coach and how tough it can be – having served many years as a Western Province and Stormers mentor in the past.
"I have been through the mill [as Stormers coach] myself," Smal said, adding that the structures in place at WP and the Stormers at the moment are far superior to what was in place when he was coach.
"Allister [Coetzee] and myself do have a great relationship," the new Stormers boss said, adding: "We have worked together with the Springboks and I know his work ethic.
"I know what he can do. His win record [46 wins from 71 starts, just on 65 percent] shows that he is successful.
"For me, really, it is just to give him the support – Allister, the other coaches and the players and to ensure the structures around them are in place."
Smal said his big advantage is that he knows the province and knows how it functions.
"I know what makes it tick," Smal said, when asked what he brings to the table that can help the beleaguered team turn around its fortunes.
"I know I can contribute to help him become more successful as a coach as well."
The new Director of Rugby, when asked what the missing ingredients are, said he wants to align all the different departments and get communication structures in place.
"It is early days for me at the moment," Smal said, adding: "I have been away for a some time.
"I have to go to the institute in Stellenbosch, the HPC [high performance centre in Bellville] where my office will be and look at the rest of the structures in WP. I have to see what they are struggling with and put a strategic plan together to take WP forward."
Asked if he could change the immediate fortunes of the team, he said: "The main thing is to give the team the support they need.
"Super Rugby is very tough," he said, adding that he has already had a "brief" meeting with all the coaches in the WP and Stormers set-up.
He understands it is not pleasant for the Newlands faithful – where the team sits at the moment, second from last on the table and coming back from Australasia without a win.
"The next thing is to look at the injuries, see how quickly we can get the top players back," Smal said.
"[We must] ensure that the structures around them are in place."
He said there won't be mass changes, as you will "confuse the players completely".
"It is important that they get the support, they have to re-energise themselves, train as hard as they can, build momentum and see how they can finish the rest of the season."
He said that if needed, he most probably would assist on the training field – even though his position is not a hands-on coaching job.
"I have a fair amount of experience in coaching as well," he said, adding: "But there will be a massive amount of work behind the scenes, to look at the other structures.
"I would like the coaches to take responsibility to coach the team as best they can, but in the meantime we will obviously address some burning issues."
By Jan de Koning