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Major coaching scoop for up-and-coming South African University

“Mr Treu’s appointment reinforces our strategy towards promotion of balance between academic and sport.”

There was undeniable excitement and delight for sport-deprived University of the Western Cape (UWC) students following the announcement that world-renowned coach Paul Treu has been appointed as head coach of the university’s rugby team.

The former South African rugby sevens player and captain, who did duty for the “Blitzboks” between 1999 and 2003, seamlessly transitioned from player to coach in 2004, leading the national rugby sevens team for nine years and delivering the country’s first World Rugby Sevens Series gold medal in 2009.

With bags of experience while in charge of the national team, including numerous appearances at the World Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby Sevens World Cup, Treu then went on to coach the Kenya national sevens rugby team before becoming the defensive coach of the Super Rugby Stormers team as well as the Performance and Innovation Manager of the Western Province Rugby Football Union.

His most recent post saw him serve as the High Performance 7s Consultant for the Japan Rugby Football Union, before last month’s major announcement which saw him appointed head coach of the University of the Western Cape.

It is a homecoming of sorts for Treu as he returns to the tertiary institution where he played rugby himself, having graduated from the university with a Higher Diploma in Education in 1993.

The esteemed coach’s resume speaks for itself, with the blossoming sports department of the university given a major boost by securing his services.

“Mr Treu’s appointment reinforces our strategy towards promotion of balance between academic and sport,” said UWC Director of Sport Mr Mandla Gagayi, who added that Treu’s appointment was also in line with wider social inclusion efforts. “It also reaffirms our commitment to the transformation of rugby as a sport where black coaches are usually overlooked or under-utilised.”

The 49-year-old takes over the post from interim coach Lionel Langenhoven, who was in a caretaker role following the untimely death of former coach and Springbok World Cup winner Chester Williams in October last year, and will have his work cut out for him when university sport resumes.

Never a major university rugby heavyweight in the country, UWC toiled in South Africa’s second-tier Varsity Shield university rugby tournament for eight long years before finally winning the competition in 2018 and gaining promotion to the prestigious Varsity Cup competition, a tournament involving the best eight university rugby teams in the country.

UWC struggled in their debut appearance in the competition, finishing bottom of the log in 2019, but fortunately lived to fight again this year with relegation not in force in last year’s tournament. With just one win in five matches played in 2020, the side sat second-bottom of the log before the competition was halted, and later chalked off, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet despite the tough challenge that lies ahead, Treu backs himself and his qualities to resurrect UWC’s form as he aims to make them a mainstay in South Africa’s premier university rugby tournament.

“I just want to thank everyone at the University of the Western Cape for appointing me as the head coach of the Varsity Cup team. I started my career at the University as a player and now I’m returning as a coach. I’m really excited to start working with the team and the staff and everyone at the University,” he said.

“I regard myself as a dynamic, cutting edge leader with extensive experience in professional sport. I am exploring opportunities to team up with a high performance organisation that relies on innovation and critical thinking, which in turn, prioritises best practice methods to achieve their goal.”

With South Africa a known powerhouse in rugby in various forms across various levels – three time World Cup winners, three-time World Rugby Sevens Series champions and FISU World University Rugby 7s Championship winners – investment in a high-profile coach at university level bodes well for the future, as the country looks to maintain its global reputation and continue its recent rugby success.

And while neither university sport nor the full academic programme are yet in motion amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, Treu’s appointment comes as welcome and inspiring news for all at the University of the Western Cape, who will now look forward to the resumption of sports activities with renewed vigour.

“Mr Treu is a shining example of what can be achieved when student-athletes can create a balance between their careers in sport and their academic honours,” said UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius. “We are pleased to have him on board and wish him all the best in his new role.

“His appointment illustrates that we have to think about life beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have to deal with the consequences of having to work from home, we must not become trapped by this reality, and his appointment shows we have an eye on the future.”

Posted by Fabio De Dominicis (U-Media) on 27 Aug, 2020.
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