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Cheers Rudolf – and all the best

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Lions, Original Content, Sharks on 4 Nov 2013 at 11:19
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Rudolf Straeuli said his final goodbyes to the Sharks on Friday and today starts work with the Golden Lions, in a similar role to the one he held in Durban for the better part of a decade.

Former Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl appointed the ex-Bok coach in 2005, just two years after his much-publicised departure from South Africa, following the woes of 2002 and 2003. Despite a bright start to his coaching tenure, Straeuli presided over one of the darkest periods in Springboks history, including 2002′s disastrous tour to the UK (anyone remember 53-3 at Twickenham?) and 2003′s trifecta of the Geo Cronje saga, Kamp Staldraad and the World Cup debacle. Considered by many to be persona non grata in South African rugby circles at the time, Van Zyl’s decision to back the man who had coached the Sharks to three finals earlier in the decade proved a controversial one indeed.

Straeuli’s tenure at the Sharks was one marked by distinct contrasts; on the one hand, his no-nonsense approach to player contracting and financial administration brought huge benefits to an organisation desperately in need of some basic discipline and rigour, but on the other, his authoritarian and often dictatorial approach was never a particularly comfortable fit in “laid-back Durban” and led to many clashes of heads during his time in the hot seat. While Straeuli, for the most part, did a superb job in terms of assembling a top notch squad of players each year, one felt that the culture created wasn’t well-suited to retention of those players – what’s more, with generally unhealthy relationships over the course of those years between the Commercial Director and the various head coaches in place, one felt that much of Straeuli’s good work was undone. Dick Muir, I’m told, simply couldn’t or wouldn’t accept any meddling in his “out of the box” selection policy, while John Plumtree’s ultra-conservative approach made life incredibly difficult for a Commercial Director concerned with balancing the books through promotion of juniors through the ranks, at the expense of expensive Boks who may have passed their sell-by date.

Those who have followed the story of Sharksworld over the years will know, of course, that our own relationship with Mr Straeuli was far from smooth over the years. My one regret, I guess, is that I don’t think I ever quite managed to convince him that my motivation was anything other wanting to “make a quick buck off his brand” – a point that rankles. Then again, I’m quite sure that I am guilty of misinterpreting more than a few of Rudolf’s own motives and lambasting him far more publicly than he probably deserved for doing something I disagreed with, without ever really understanding his side of the story. In short, I can only look back on a relationship fraught with misunderstanding and regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to look for the good – to believe the best – and ultimately be more fair in what I wrote.

I’m sure that, things being the way they are, most of the really good things that Rudolf Straeuli did for the Sharks will never really come to light and the fruits of those labours will probably be plucked by others, without much credit going to the former Commercial Director. Let’s not forget, though, that the squad we now have – the one that won the Currie Cup and will hopefully go on to win Super Rugby under Jake White – is a squad largely assembled and contracted by none other than the former Lions and Bok loose forward.

Rudolf – I sincerely wish you all the best for your future endeavours and really hope we have the opportunity to share another beer at some point in the future.


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