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SA Rugby's message to Stormers amid off-field dramas back in Cape Town

By Jan De Koning
Leolin Zas of DHL Stormers (Photo By Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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While the Cape Town rugby scene is abuzz, almost besotted, with the South African rugby union decision to place Western Province Rugby Football Union under administration, the Stormers are doing their damnedest to focus on the job at hand.

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The team completes its four-match United Rugby Championship tour when they take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade, Newport, on Friday.

Their preparations this week have been overshadowed by events about 10,000 kilometres to the south in their home city.

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While the warning signs have been there for a couple of months, the bomb finally dropped on Tuesday – when SARU advised WPRFU President Zelt Marais that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the union.

The letter from SARU CEO Jurie Roux to Marais was forwarded following a decision by the Executive Council of the SARU on Monday.

Experienced former SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately.

His remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of the company, Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the Stormers and Western Province.

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And Stormers have been on the road in Europe for the last month, playing in the newly-formed URC.

Stormers coach John Dobson said the team is still ‘upbeat’, despite all the off-field drama.

“As a team, we have largely tried to immunize ourselves from all that has been going on off the field,” Dobson told a virtual media briefing from the team’s base in Newport – adding that they have done a “reasonably good job” of it.

The coach revealed that he was “required” to tell the players about the latest development – the SARU takeover – and delivered the news on Wednesday.

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“The players just want to focus on the rugby,” Dobson said, adding: “As a coach and the team’s patron, it has been a hell of a period.

“The opportunity to focus on rugby, without the headlines or people on the outside saying we are not going to get paid.

“For me, personally, to focus on the team is exciting.

“That will bring energy to the team.

“[However,] we have been really disciplined in not getting involved [in the off-field dramas].

“It may have been a good thing that we were on tour as things came to a head.

“We have just focussed on the rugby and what happened out there, we can’t control it. I am thrilled with the energy in the team.”

Asked if there has been any communication with or message from their ‘new’ superiors at SARU, Dobson said: “The communication I have had from SA Rugby is just to concentrate on Friday’s game.

“We will pick up all the nitty-gritty of it next week.

“The message that came to me, strongly, was: ‘Keep the team up and focus on Friday. They have nothing to worry about the future’.

“That’s what my job is meant to be, to focus on the game. There was no detail in the communication.”

Captain Salmaan Moerat echoed similar sentiments.

“We are focussed on the game and there hasn’t been much chat about anything around the boardroom,” Moerat said, adding: “We have solely been focussed on the tour.

“The energy has been really good.”

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SA Rugby's message to Stormers amid off-field dramas back in Cape Town

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