(Published - 13 November 2019)
Continuing with strategic plans and the welfare of players were central to the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) appointment of Lionel Langenhoven as the interim head coach of the University’s rugby team in the absence of the late Chester Williams.
Langenhoven, who served as the assistant coach to Williams for four years, alongside former Springbok star Bolla Conradie, will guide the team into their second season in the FNB Varsity Cup - South Africa’s premier university rugby competition - early next year.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and, together with the rest of the coaches, we will do our best to honour the values that Chester put in place here. We’ve got to adhere to that legacy and even make it stronger and better,” said Langenhoven.
The former head coach of Kuils River and Brackenfell rugby clubs is aware of the pressure that comes with the promotion-relegation season, and said the team is up to the task.
“We have done well in the Western Province league and I’m challenging myself and the boys to do well in the Varsity Cup, too. With the type of talent we have, we will not disappoint.”
UWC Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, explained the logic behind Langenhoven’s appointment: “We have just lost Chester Williams. Many, especially players, are still struggling to come to terms with his death. Had we brought in a new coach, it might have left the players overwhelmed. A new coach may not understand what the players are going through. For this reason we decided to allow them to grieve while working with familiar faces.”
Gagayi said Williams worked closely with Langenhoven and Conradie during his recruitment drive for next season.
“It would have been unfair for a new coach to inherit a team that he or she did not even have a say in during the recruitment process. These coaches have been part of the recruitment decisions and have been part of the team for four seasons. They know Chester’s ethos and they have developed a playing style that the players are familiar with,” said Gagayi.
Gagayi said Williams joined UWC very late, just before the start of his first season. He inherited a team and had a dismal first season.
With 2020 being a promotion-relegation season in the Varsity Cup, Langenhoven and his team have a mandate to keep UWC in the competition. The hopes are high that they have learned from their debut season.
Gagayi said Williams involved his assistants in every decision-making process. Langenhoven even led the team at the USSA Games and in the Western Province Super League A where UWC finished in the top six. The team ended just two points behind second-placed UCT - a first in the club’s history.
Langenhoven, who also coached the Western Province amateur side for five years, revealed that the team has retained about 85% of last year’s players. Nine new “interesting” faces have been recruited, but the final team will depend on whether the players make the grade academically.
The UWC team is not short of inspiration, with stars like Herschel Jantjies and Kurt-Lee Arendse making their debut in the senior Springboks and Springboks Sevens teams.
“Their achievement has lifted the spirit in the team immensely. What Herschel and Kurt-Lee achieved is possible for everyone. Those two are our ambassadors. Next year we want to strengthen our resolve to be the people’s team, because we are a very diverse university and together we can move mountains,” said Langenhoven.