R20 million for this?

Now we know why the Stormers of 2006 have played like confused half-wits.

The Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe has taken two days to issue a statement that Schalk Brits is only the captain for Saturday and that De Wet Barry is still the team captain and may well be reinstated as match captain a week from now.

Van der Merwe, having been the original source of the Brits story, was the one who broke the news in Die Burger. There was no misrepresentation from Die Burger’s rugby writer Herbert Pretorius. There was no assumption from Pretorius. He quoted Van der Merwe explaining the situation and giving the logic behind the decision.

On the basis of Van der Merwe’s comments that it made sense to make the change now because of the likelihood of Barry, Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger being with the Springboks during the Currie Cup.

Van der Merwe, who has failed to communicate effectively with anyone on this issue post his comments to Pretorius, showed the kind of communication that exists within the squad by telling Pretorius that he would be explaining his thinking to Barry and another of the dropped players Hanyani Shimange. He did not say it has been explained to the player. The media, in the form of Pretorius, was told first.

The Argus followed up the story, as did this site.

There were conflicting reports on Barry’s dumping. Was it for a match or for the rest of the camaign? The Stormers officials in Cape Town did not know. They advised Keo.co.za writer Chris Hewitt to contact Van der Merwe directly. Van der Merwe was unavailable to speak. The union advised Hewitt to speak to Anthony MacKaiser, the media communications manager with the squad.

MacKaiser confirmed emphatically the captaincy decision was for the rest of the campaign. The question was asked again and he gave the reassurance this is what he had been told. There was no confusion. There was no misrepresentation. There was a decision.

Any decision has a consequence and the consequence has obviously been felt within the squad. Barry would have his supporters and detractors within the team set-up. The decision, however brave, would have an effect on a team with still two matches to play overseas, especially given the fact that Barry was to stay with the team.

Now … two days after a coach created the news he puts out a press statement to supposedly clear up any confusion. How bloody rich. How bloody scary. This is the guy coaching a team that has looked clueless all season, totally confused in their approach and seemingly unsure whether to attack or defend, whether to hold their line or press, take the tackle or offload in the tackle … the list is endless.

Van der Merwe’s comments in Die Burger two days ago and the Communications Manager’s confirmation of these, coupled with the response a few hours ago, via a press release where he can’t be questioned on it, showcases the absolute confusion within the team management.

“It has come to our attention that there was a bit of confusion back home this week over the issue of the captaincy of the side and we would like to correct any misperceptions that may exist,” says the press release.

What misperceptions? They were in direct speech, from you and your communications manager. There was no interpretation.

It is the quickest pass we’ve seen from anyone in the Stormers set up this season. There’s nothing 50-50 about the way in which Van der Merwe has passed the buck. If a coach, who makes a media statement, can’t hold himself accountable for his own words, how the hell does he hold himself accountable for anything in the team set up? He doesn’t and it explains the absolute horror show we’ve witnessed all season.

You want to know why the Stormers haven’t won a game at home, then maybe it is because the coach says one thing on a Monday, another on the Tuesday and something else on the Saturday.

Van der Merwe’s statement continued: “In keeping with our strict policy on discipline, management decided that De Wet Barry and Hanyani Shimange, who both received yellow cards in the Blues game, would be benched for the Chiefs match. It was therefore decided that Schalk Brits would take over the captaincy for the Chiefs game. This is a great opportunity for Schalk to learn about the demands of captaincy.”

So now the Chiefs game has become a school of experiment and learning. Brits is getting 80 minutes of in-house training as to how to become a captain, when De Villiers and Neil de Kock, previous captains, are playing. The coach has made a guy the captain who has to learn about the demands of the captaincy? It is outrageous. He either made him the captain because he believes he has the qualities or he doesn’t. My guess is Van der Merwe believes he can, which is why there was so much talk about him being the captain when he relocated to Cape Town from Johannesburg.

Van der Merwe has opted for a cop out and has looked to protect the ‘everyone is a mate’ culture that has promoted only mediocrity in the squad. He was willing to be brave to his media man, in this case Pretorius, but now he won’t stand by the decision.

His statement continues: “I would however like to state categorically that it does not mean that De Wet will not regain the captaincy when he starts again. De Wet is the elected Vodacom Stormers captain for 2006 and that has not changed. We have discussed this matter and there is a clear understanding within the team as to how things stand.”

I would like to state categorically that by all accounts the only understanding within the team is that there is no understanding, which is why the Stormers have played eight matches and won two against teams ranked 13th and 14th in the competition. This with a player budget of R20 million.

Or is there also a bit of confusion back home about that as well Kobus?

In future Kobus, be prepared to take the call, answer the question and actually be accountable for what you say — not just to your ‘go to’ media man, but to every beat writer who services the game in your region.

If the coach can’t be accountable for what he says, how do you expect a team to have any accountability.

You don’t. Played eight. Won 2. Cost. R20 million.