Smal change at Newlands
Western Province confirmed that former Bok assistant coach Gert Smal has been appointed as their Director of Rugby on a three-year contract.
Western Province have confirmed that former Springbok assistant coach Gert Smal has been appointed as their Director of Rugby on a three-year contract.
Smal, a former two-times Currie Cup-winning coach with Western Province, will return to the Cape after some time away, having served as the Springbok assistant coach between 2003 and 2007 and holding down the same role with the Ireland national team from 2008 to 2013.
During his time with the Springboks, Smal helped the national team to a Tri-Nations title in 2004 and a World Cup triumph in 2007. As part of the Ireland coaching set-up, Smal played an integral part in their 2009 Six Nations, Grand Slam and Triple Crown triumphs, whilst he also helped mastermind a 15-10 win over the Boks in Dublin later that year.
Smal's role at Western Province will see him head up rugby matters across the union, with the senior professional coaches, junior professional coaches and WP Rugby Institute management team all reporting in to him.
He will be based at the High Performance Centre in Bellville, helping with the ethos and strategy of teams and being responsible for the contracting and recruitment throughout the union - from the junior ranks right through to the senior ranks.
A crucial part of Smal's job will also see him manage the process of the junior players taking the step up into fully-fledged senior professionals - all of which is geared towards ensuring that WP Rugby remains a leading brand with its teams continuing to push for trophies and players continuing to earn national colours.
Smal is well known to everyone at WP Rugby, as a player and a coach. His role is not a hands-on coaching one, but a position that will encompass the strategic rugby role from the junior teams straight through to the senior professional outfits.
"WP is a vibrant and diverse union and arguably the most talented union in the country, with teams from Under-13 right up to the U21s winning trophies last year," said Smal on Monday.
"I've played and coached here before, I have nothing but fond memories of my time here. It's also great to be back in Cape Town after a long time away. Our fans are well-known for their unrivalled support and I look forward to drawing on that loyalty and passion to ensure that Newlands remains a rugby fortress for the Stormers and Western Province teams.
"I would need the support of the various management teams, the players, administrators and other key role-players in order for WP Rugby to be successful. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made and a unified vision and support is crucial in this process.
"This is obviously an exciting opportunity for me and a challenge I look forward to."
Speaking further about his role as Director of Rugby, Smal explained: "This is not a hands-on coaching position, and not just about the senior teams, it's a position that encompasses the strategic rugby role of WP Rugby - from the juniors right up until the senior professional teams.
"In terms of the senior team, specifically, my job is to add to the strategies and ethos of WP Rugby and to ensure that we remain a leading union and continue to push for trophies and continue developing international players too. I want to create an environment here that gives all players a deep and lasting career desire to play their rugby in the Western Province.
"I believe that Western Province has taken giant steps forward in certain areas whilst I have been away - both on and off the field," added Smal.
"Certain structures are already in place, starting with our home training base, the High Performance Centre in Bellville, the School of Excellence, the WP Rugby Institute in Stellenbosch and our new Academy set-up in Tokai.
"We also have vibrant club and schools competitions and the WP Rugby structures continue to produce players of quality. In the last two years, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe have become full Springboks and Scarra Ntubeni and Louis Schreuder have toured with the Boks. We are producing young talent, with ten SA Schools players being part of our 2014 WPRI intake, and we're producing new Springboks too... part of my role here will be to ensure that I build on that base," he added.
Whilst Smal considers himself a WP Rugby man through and through with back to back Currie Cup wins in 2000 and 2001 and a Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders in 2004, he believes his time away, which saw him serve as an assistant coach at international level with the Springboks and Ireland, has given him invaluable experience at the highest level and in some of toughest rugby competitions in the world.
His second stint in the Springbok set-up, between 2003 and 2007, saw him serve as an assistant coach to Jake White when the team tasted Tri-Nations (2004) and World Cup (2007) success.
Smal's five-year stint with Ireland, under Declan Kidney, was also a successful time for him, with Ireland winning the Six Nations (and Grand Slam and Triple Crown) in 2009 and finishing top of their pool at the 2011 Rugby World Cup after they beat the Wallabies in the pool stages. Ireland's 2009 triumph was the country's first title in 24 years and their first Grand Slam since 1948.
"I have picked up crucial experience since my previous stint here - with the Springboks and Ireland, both of which are very different environments.
"I have had the opportunity to coach world-class players and to work alongside - and coach against - renowned rugby brains. I have come back more experienced, as a coach and a person, and I firmly believe that I have a contribution to make at WP."