Sanlam Boland Top12 coaches CONFIDENT the tournament will leave lasting legacy

Confidence Rule #20: Preparation is always the best preparation.

By Millin Thomas | Photo credit: Farron Jade Middleway

The Sanlam Boland Top 12 tournament recently witnessed an exhilarating level of competition that hasn’t been seen in years. Teams were on the edge of their seats as they fought for a spot in the knockouts until the very last minute. The intensity was palpable, with every team realising that every minute mattered.

We chatted to coaches Neil Papier (Darling), Warren Johnson (Hawston), and Brendon Cloete (Safcol United). We asked them what confidence in their clubs looks like.

Coach Neil Papier has a firm belief that confidence and hard work go hand in hand, a philosophy that has proven successful for his team. With 80% of his players having previously experienced the semifinals, they know what to expect and are well-prepared for the challenges ahead.

Darling RFC Head Coach, Neil Papier. Photo credit: Lizette Smit

According to Coach Papier, this year’s Sanlam Boland Top 12 tournament has been the best one yet. The broadcast coverage of all the games has allowed players to showcase their talents to a wider audience. Reflecting on the tournament’s format, Coach Papier has nothing negative to say, indicating his satisfaction with the current structure. Currently in his fourth year as the coach of the Darling Rugby Club, Coach Papier’s experience and expertise have undoubtedly played a significant role in his team’s success.

Coach Warren Johnson led his team with a strong sense of confidence in the Sanlam Boland Top 12 tournament. He firmly believed that with a bit of luck, his team could have gone all the way this year. The competition had been exceptionally tough, especially in Group A, where the top two teams were determined on the very last matchday. Coach Johnson expressed his admiration for the level of competition and praised the teams for their exceptional performances.

Hawston RFC Head Coach, Warren Johnson. Photo credit: Tertia Ess

When asked about the current format of the Sanlam Boland Top 12, Coach Johnson had nothing negative to say. He acknowledged the fairness and excitement the format brought to the tournament and expressed his satisfaction with its organisation. 2023 marked Coach Johnson’s first year as head coach, but his involvement in rugby dates back to 2013. Despite being new to the head coaching role, he brought valuable experience and insights to the team, helping them navigate the challenges of the tournament.

Coach Brendon Cloete believes that confidence is a simple concept to understand – it is about believing in the system that is in place, having faith in your players and coaching staff, and being confident in their abilities. As the head coach of Safcol, he understands the importance of instilling confidence in his team and creating a supportive environment.

Safcol United RFC Head Coach, Brendon Cloete. Photo credit: Farron Jade Middleway

With Safcol’s first year in the knockouts, Coach Cloete can only base his opinion on this year’s performance. However, he is thrilled with the exposure both the players and coaching staff are receiving. The opportunity to play in the knockouts provides a valuable learning experience and helps them grow as individuals and a team. Coach Cloete is eager to see how they perform under pressure and believes that this exposure will be invaluable in their development.

Appointed as the head coach in 2022, this marks Coach Cloete’s second year in the position. He has had time to settle into his role and establish his coaching philosophy. With his experience and passion for the game, Coach Cloete aims to continue guiding and motivating his team to reach new heights.

Coach Cloete began his coaching journey at the Cheetahs Rugby Klub, which currently competes in the esteemed Gemeenskap Skild tournament in the Overberg region. This experience laid the foundation for his coaching career, allowing him to hone his skills and develop a deep understanding of the game.

In 2017 and 2018, Coach Cloete took the reins at Grabouw Rugby Club, where he showcased his coaching prowess and made a significant impact on the team.

His time at Grabouw Rugby Club served as a stepping stone for Coach Cloete, propelling him towards greater opportunities and recognition within the rugby community.