Treu could be lost for Blitzbokke
Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu could be heading abroad after several successful years with the Blitzbokke.
Treu, who has been coach for eight seasons now – South Africa’s longest serving national coach – and has won 14 tournaments on the HSBC World Series in this time as well as one IRB World Series title, will see his contract end in October and it is unlikely to be renewed by the South African Rugby Union (Saru).
The popular coach, who has already been linked with positions in both Kenya and the USA, is likely to look at a new challenge after steering the Blitzbokke through the World Series minefield for so long.
While Saru will only make a decision when the Exco meet on the 10th of August, their recent appointment of assistant Vuyo Zangqa and Academy head Neil Powell to take the team to the World Games in Colombia was the first indication that Treu’s contract may not be renewed.
There has been talk behind the scenes that this would be Treu’s last season, and speculation has grown since the Blitzbokke’s disappointing quarterfinal exit at the Rugby World Cup in Moscow in June.
On Thursday Kenya announced that their coach, Mike Friday, had tendered his resignation and immediately Treu’s name was put forward as a replacement.
The Bok Sevens coach is yet to have his review for the season, which is, according to Saru, “an ongoing process” and the indications are already that Saru are looking at a new coach going forward.
In Moscow there were several countries – including Kenya, USA, Russia and Samoa who were actively headhunting new coaches before the next World Series starts.
Treu is known to be a master tactician and has implemented great structures in Sevens rugby in the country, even though he is not always able to call on the best players as Sevens falls below the Super Rugby format in the pecking order and teams are often unwilling to release their players for Sevens duty.
The coach is keen to stay on until the Olympics, but the long delay in the review process indicates that this will not happen. In all likelihood Treu will have to chase his Olympic dream with another country.
Treu referred all enquiries to Saru’s media office, while the national union isn’t likely to comment before either the season review is done or the Exco have taken a decision about Treu’s future.
It is understandable that Treu may have served his time at the Sevens team, and that a new challenge won’t be a bad thing, but there are still hopes of keeping him within the Saru structures.
One possibility that has been mooted is to move him to the SA under-20 side where he could take over the role now vacated by Sharks Director of Rugby Brendan Venter.
Kenya have already shown their interest, and the African connection may interest Treu, although the in-fighting in the Kenya Rugby Union has been one of the sticking points why Friday eventually left.
The USA are defending Olympic Rugby champions and are keen to make a big impression in Rio in 2016, so much so that Olympic funding and training facilities will be made available to the team, which has become a regular core series team over the past few years.
Friday is also said to be interested in the USA role, although it is believed he wants to commute between London and America while in the job while US Rugby wants a fulltime coach.
While Treu’s saga plays out behind the scenes, if he does leave, the appointment of a new Springbok Sevens coach may not be so easy either.
Zangqa is Treu’s assistant while Powell has taken Academy and Development sides to several tournaments and the latter was seen as the natural successor to Treu.
However, there is pressure to keep the squad with the same representation and it is believed the Zangqa-Powell joint coaching approach, which is currently being tested in Colombia, may be the way forward to overcome this.
Still it is hard to imagine a dual coaching appointment being successful in such a highly charged, pressurised environment as the World Sevens Series.
Either way Treu will know his fate in the next two weeks.
• Meanwhile Springbok Sevens star Cornal Hendricks has been ruled out of the team to play in Thursday night (SA time) opening matches in the World Games with a hamstring injury. Regular captain Kyle Brown leads a young side that is missing several regular players.