President of the EP Rugby Union Cheeky Watson has apparently made plans to get rid of Danie Gerber from the union’s marketing team, while the coach also looks next in line to get the chop.
Watson was elected president on 29 November and the first structural changes have been made solely to the marketing and public relations departments, while coach Chris Grobler also faces a meeting with Watson regarding his future – and he hasn’t even been in charge for a match yet.
Gerber had brought along Grobler from the Pumas and he was appointed the coach of the Mighty Elephants for next year.
Gerber – who has plans to set up a trust with sponsors’ money in order to get EP back into the premier division of the Currie Cup – has been told he and marketing manager Belinda Venter face retrenchment at the end of January.
“We got a letter saying they were going to cut our salary in half,” Gerber told keo.co.za. “They want to get rid of the marketing department and the coach, and without that there’ll be no team. But I’ll try carry on and I will be back in office on 12 January.”
“In the meanwhile you have other guys sitting there and three quarters of them do nothing – I’ve seen it for myself – and they haven’t received letters,” said Gerber.
Watson did not arrive for a scheduled meeting with coach Grobler today. “They were supposed to meet earlier, but Cheeky didn’t pitch so it’s now on for tomorrow,” said Gerber.
Gerber’s marketing plan was based on getting former players to plough money back into the union for the current crop’s benefit.
“I have got many prominent business people on board who are willing to give loads of cash every month just for the professional players. We would then build a competitive side and from there even more money would come in when we start winning,” said Gerber.
“If I leave, there’s no way these guys will be keen to throw their money into EP Rugby anymore, which will be sad because old players want to get on board. We were going to make it a separate account because there’s been a history of money been stolen within the union in the past,” he added.
Gerber says the financial injection would have been used solely on benefiting the players. “Chris has worked his arse off for the past two weeks getting guys on programmes and preparing them for next year, and now they want to cut his salary in half. We also want to give guys proper contracts, but everyone else in EP Rugby thinks you just put a team on the field and let them do their thing without planning or professionalism.”
Gerber is a passionate Eastern Province rugby man but he was worried after his first meeting with Watson, when he says he immediately saw “where his agenda was”.
“The first day I met Cheeky he told us how straight down the line he is, and he said if anyone proves he’s not he’ll throw his Bible in the sea. Then all he wanted to talk about was the Bok emblem, trying to get a reaction from me, but I was there to talk about EP rugby. That was my focus, on how I suggest we get back into the Currie Cup proper in a year, not two or three because that’s too late, we need it now.
“But for 45 minutes not once did he speak about rugby, he was just there for politics.”
Watson however, claimed that no such letters were sent out. “The rumour about retrenchments is just the work of someone bitter who wants to create negativity about the union,” Watson told The Herald.
A letter provided by Gerber and in possession of The Herald, signed by Watson, indicates the marketing management, public relations and coaching positions could be made redundant or adversely affected come January.
Attempts to get hold of Watson for comment on Thursday afternoon failed.
By Grant Ball