"Marmoream relinquo, quam latericiam accepi"
Nick Mallett - March 2005
Well, actually, no, to be honest, it wasn't said by Nick Mallett in March 2005, it was said by Augustus a helluva long time ago and what he really meant to say was,
"I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble."
Nick Mallett would have said it, had his wife laid out his toga on the morning of the announcement of his appointment as Director - Rugby, Western Province/Stormers. Unfortunately the toga was still in Barabas's Wishy Washy and the quote went unsaid.
However, the essence remains.
Nick inherited an ailing operation down in the Cape. Results were sporadic, the most volatile crowd in the country were giving vent to their frustration and the off-field antics were becoming more curious by the day.
The nature of the timing of Mallett's appointment meant that he had to hit the ground running and it has to be surmised that the delineation of duties has been apportioned on the hoof. Kobus van der Merwe was brought on board along with London Irish's Gary Gold. Jerome Paarwater's services had been retained in the big clean out.
It wasn't long after Mallett's appointment that news broke that a couple had been arrested on suspicion of massive fraud against the WPRFU.
Change, especially overwhelming change, is often accompanied by a period of uncertainty and even, at times, chaos. WP would not have been immune to this syndrome and I, for one, really wasn't expecting too much from them this year.
At this stage it would be honest to admit that Western Province definitely appear to have gone through a phase of a lack of forward planning, perhaps a lack of ambition and almost certainly a degree of resting on the laurels of previous generations.
Looking in from the outside, they do not currently give off the smell, taste or vision of a province that has such a venerable reputation, a reputation backed by continual achievements over the years.
In fact, at times they've looked like a minor union.
Reading between the lines, one suspects a great deal of faction fighting is going on behind the scenes. Western Province has a power base that is almost equally split between 'white' and 'coloured' clubs and it would appear that a degree of residual resentment has created a situation where each votes along it's own community lines instead of what is best for Western Province holistically.
Never mind, let's concentrate on Nick Mallett.
Love him or loathe him, and few people seem to end up in the middle, Mallett is a man unused to failure, at the very least, uncomfortable with it. He will most certainly not want to besmirch an international reputation by having his charges relegated out of the Super 14 on their first attempt.
When Western Province brought Nick on board it was most definitely a case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Nick is not a man to sit in his cave in a reflective mood, if it needs saying, he'll be saying it. If you are not mature enough to hear the message, don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way out.
It's not everyone's man-management cup of tea but Province are not everyone, the Stormers are not everyone, indeed, professional top class international sportsmen are not everyone and all the signs indicated that Province needed exactly such an attitude to jolt them out of the complacent torpor they appear to have slid into.
If Nick had been Greek, and by the looks of him he could very well have passed it off, he'd have thrown another Greek quotation at his boys, 'Audentis Fortuna iuvat', and let's face it, Province haven't been brave and forune hasn't favoured them.
The good news is, since being knocked out of the Currie Cup in the semi-final, an event that was nigh on unthinkable in my youth, Western Province have had nothing else to do except reflect, plan their campaign and, at last, draw breath. Mallet et cie will not have spent their time basking on the beach, they will have been hard at work, putting structures in place, apportioning roles and bedding the new boys in.
Gosh, 'new boys'. Don't get me started but have Province had new boys or what! Well, further great news is that everyone is only a new boy until they reach their second year. The youngsters like Skeate, Bekker and Louw will finally have got some breathing space to reflect on their year and muse on how they can improve.
Many are sceptical about the few new additions to the Stormers squad but I'm of the opinion that it's a breath of fresh air for these guys, their careers have been revived with another bite at the big time. They don't want to let anyone down and they are old enough to know what they have to put in to get something out again.
Sure, there will probably still be reverberations over Tito voting in favour of Van Rooyen when the executive wanted him to vote against but hopefully that damn tough unprofitable 2005 will be consigned to history administratively.
On the field, for the first time we'll get a real taste of what the Mallett regime is going to look like.
The Paarwater's, Gold's, Van der Merwe's and Fourie's of the world will know exactly what is expected of them and we'll be getting back a few extremely experienced and well rested Boks in Marius Joubert and Big Joe van Niekerk.
We won't win the Super 14 but we won't be the team relegated either.
To end, let me quote Nick Mallett again;
Ooops, no, that's Accius, but by now you know that if Nick could have said it, he would have, "
Let them hate, as long as they fear."
What Nick did say, when quoting Augustus, was "
Only that which is well done is quickly done."
Western Province and The Stormers will not be overnight sensations but all WP fans will be chanting, "
Veni, vidi, vici" by the end of Super 14 in 2007.