Paul Treu: Transformation and truth lie uneasily in WP
Even if the defence coach is to be shown the door this week there is unlikely to be a clear winner in this affair
Never before has the precariously balanced future of an assistant rugby coach had so much at stake.
The Paul Treu saga hangs like a dark post-apocalyptic cloud over Table Mountain with potentially grave consequences for Western Province rugby, whatever the outcome.
WP’s board and executive committee are at odds over whether Treu’s services should be retained.
Treu last year accused the union of treating him unfairly and of discrimination during his three-year stint as defence coach of the Stormers. An investigation failed to find evidence supporting Treu’s claim.
It has been reported that the franchise’s board last week voted to oust Treu, who it was initially thought would occupy a high-performance role under director of rugby Gert Smal. Now, it would appear, the WP executive committee wants Treu to replace Smal once his contract expires in October.
The saga has proved deeply divisive with Treu very much painted as the agent provocateur. Although the former national sevens coach is central to the events that are dragging the franchise deeper into the mire, the focus has very much been on him and not the issue that has precipitated the standoff.
The Treu affair is playing itself out against the backdrop of a continued dearth of black coaches in the upper echelons of its coaching structures.
It says everything you need to know about the sport, and the lack of talent identification and skills development, that none of the (men’s) national coaches, Super Rugby head coaches, or directors of rugby at the respective franchises are black.
Are we to believe that in a country with the racial demographic such as ours, 27 years after SA Rugby rolled out their first development programme, and almost 25 years after the first democratic elections, that no black coach is fit to hold a senior position of authority at the game’s top table?
There are even conspiracy theories suggesting black coaches are being blackballed, but that, to be frank, requires well-orchestrated collusion. It is perhaps easier explained as passive racism.
That is further entrenched by the gloomy prognosis for WP Rugby should Treu stay on. It has been rather enthusiastically suggested that should Treu stay, the game in the Cape would collapse back into the abyss of amateurism, players would pack their bags at the end of the season (which they are likely to do anyway following the World Cup), and sponsors similarly would take flight.
Some of that may yet come to pass but the doom and gloom prognosis is tantamount to the swart gevaar scaremongering that certain sectors of our population were exposed to before apartheid was officially dismantled.
There also are fervent calls for the sport to be privatised and, while that wouldl no doubt open the rugby to more commercial opportunity, it would distance the game further from its rank and file.
Since the advent of professionalism the gap between rugby’s backwaters and those historically awash with opportunity, lengthened further.
SA Rugby’s transformation objectives (the document that acts as government pacifier) is supposed to extend beyond the playing surface. That is easy to forget amid the vituperation of Treu and the paralysis afflicting the WP decision making structures.
Even if Treu is to be shown the door this week there is unlikely to be a clear winner in this affair. WP may well decide letting him go will in the short term cause the least amount of damage, but it is worth reminding oneself that this is an election year and that this affair may well stoke political fire.