Andries Pretorius, CEO of The Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA), has today announced his intention to step down from his role at the end of the 2018/2019 season. A process to appoint his successor will now be launched.
Andries has been in post since March 2017 and has worked tirelessly alongside an Executive Committee of players lead by Chairman, Ken Owens, and an in-house team at the WRPA, to introduce a world-class programme of support for professional rugby players across Wales.
During a rugby career that saw Andries captain the Cardiff Blues and earn international honours for Wales against Japan in 2013, he also achieved a Master’s degree in Business Psychology. After being forced to retire from playing at the age of 29, he committed himself to focus his knowledge and expertise to enhancing wellbeing in the workplace and in particular understanding the systems that were in place to support the welfare of professional rugby players across the world.
At the core of Andries’ achievements as WPRA CEO has been the creation of a comprehensive personal development program and the appointment of a Personal Development Manager in each of the four regions who, with the support of a centrally located Business Support Executive, have been able to deliver an innovative Personal Development Programme to players across Wales. The four pillars of this programme being: Career and Education, Life-skills, Mental Wellbeing and Vulnerabilities.
The continued strengthening of the WRPA has seen Andries establish a Non-Executive Board consisting of five individuals with world-leading expertise across a range of disciplines, who will be an invaluable resource in guiding the WRPA to continued success and development. He has additionally secured the services of a Clinical Psychologist as a member of the team who has been on hand to support players at the most difficult times of their lives.
In recent months, Andries and the WRPA have worked hard to represent and promote the interests and views of its player members throughout the well-publicised turbulent period of proposed change to rugby structures, employment contracts and pay bandings across Welsh rugby.
WRPA Chairman and British & Irish Lions, Wales and Scarlets hooker, Ken Owens, who has worked alongside Andries for the last two years, said:
“Firstly, on behalf of the rugby playing members across Wales, I want to put on record our sincere appreciation for the outstanding work that Andries has done over the last two years.
“He has been instrumental in transforming the WRPA from an under-resourced association that was not able to meet player needs into one that is now providing a hands-on service in each of the regions, where it delivers a truly world-leading Personal Development Programme that is seeing huge benefits for players across Wales.
“The combination of his knowledge as a former professional rugby player along with his academic study of player wellbeing and welfare, has been key to these huge strides in player support. He has also introduced a non-executive board to the WRPA for the first time, with professional people giving up their time voluntarily to support rugby players in Wales.
“Andries is leaving a WRPA that is unrecognisable from one he inherited, and it is his vision, dedication and drive that will allow the membership and his successor to take the association onto even greater things.”
CEO Andries Pretorius said:
“Four years ago, I recognised that while rugby globally was evolving at a tremendous rate there was an area of exceptional opportunity being ignored at a great cost. Wanting to see rugby in Wales benchmarked as world-leading, I fully believed that if we align stakeholders and build a program that is driven by the players themselves, we could absolutely achieve this.
“Through the tireless work of the Personal Development Managers alongside the players, I believe we are seeing the WRPA truly set the standard in this regard.
“I have loved the challenges this role has brought and I have learnt an incredible amount during my time with the WRPA. However, I am excited to take an opportunity to finish my PhD in Business Psychology and to help organisations in other industries to achieve the benefits that we found when we improved wellbeing in the workplace.
“I have to commend the work that has been done by all the WRPA staff during such unprecedented times and I know the players are grateful for the support they receive. With the backing of the Executive Committee and a newly-recruited Non-Executive Board who are passionate about support for rugby players in Wales and bring industry-leading knowledge, I am confident that the association will grow from strength-to-strength.
“Finally, to the eight players who I sat down with at the Vale just over two years ago, thank you for backing my vision and for agreeing to not only leave the shirt in a better place, but in a very real sense the game in Wales as well.”