Shame that Stormers are just going through the motions
Team should change the coach now – Robbie Fleck’s outfit has only three wins in seven games
The Stormers are limping towards another season of what-ifs and maybes, as many players and coach Robbie Fleck appear to be going through the motions in their last months at the franchise.
It’s no secret that many top Stormers players such as Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are on the shopping lists of top European and English clubs. In a World Cup year leading players are always targeted.
In terms of the coaching Fleck is drawing near to the end of his four-year term and John Dobson has already been appointed to succeed him in 2020. Fleck is surely looking for new opportunities even if he publicly makes the right noises about commitment to the cause. It’s only natural that he would have one eye on his future knowing that his time at Newlands is up.
Which is why WP president Zelt Marais and CEO Paul Zacks should promote Dobson as soon as the Stormers return from their current tour. They’ve already set a course with Dobson, so why wait any longer? Fleck has taken the team as far as he can and with an away playoff match being the best case scenario for the Stormers, there is no reason to drag this transition out any longer.
If nothing else, it would at least send out a signal to long-suffering fans that the WP board are doing something proactive rather than reactive about the Stormers’ performances and results.
Like Manchester United did by letting Jose Mourinho go mid-season, the change positively stimulated the environment, which saw the club change almost overnight.
The board won’t do it, though, because they’ve been painfully trying to sell an image of a union where nothing is wrong, where every decision has been well thought out and where every detail has been minutely planned.
To the casual observer it would seem that the Stormers hierarchy have done a stellar job with their succession planning, which is what they want, but the reality is it’s simply not the case.
Although Fleck’s tenure was always coming to an end after this season, Dobson’s elevation to the top job was far from a foregone conclusion at the beginning of 2019. As recently as late February Gert Smal was firmly ensconced as director of rugby. Six weeks later he resigned and left because the union appointed the controversial Paul Treu in a newly-created post of “performance and innovation manager”. Goodness knows, the Stormers could do with some performance and innovation.
Fleck wanted out last year when he had an offer at a club in Wales and Smal asked him to honour his contract. Which Fleck did – only to see Smal, his boss, walk when the going got tough last month.
It sums up the general malaise at the Stormers. Fleck’s team is struggling with three wins in seven games before Friday’s meeting with the Rebels in Melbourne. It’s familiar territory for the Stormers and fans are increasingly fed up. The Stormers aren’t terrible but they aren’t very good either, and given the talent on their roster there is rightful expectation that they are capable of more.
Fleck is far from solely to blame. He, after all, was catapulted into the job after Eddie Jones jilted the Stormers less than a week into the job in late 2015. Then the Stormers board turned down Smal’s recommendation that John Mitchell replace Jones. Mitchell and Smal had already agreed in principle on a deal.Fleck was the third choice and, under the circumstances, has done a reasonable job. But there is a feeling he has been so browbeaten by the backroom politics and pressure that he will be relieved when it’s all over.