The life in blue. And white. In Castres, it’s like that. The colors of the rugby club, Castres Olympique (CO), brighten up the local mood. Even more these last days of electric patience before the semi-final of the Top 14, Friday June 17 in the evening in Nice, against the big red and black neighbors of Toulouse. In the small town of Tarn, shopkeepers are playing the game in the shop window, the giant screen is ready on Place Soult, and 40,000 inhabitants are waiting to vibrate in unison.
However, it is not the exceptional nature of the event that mobilizes the city. Since 2012, this is the fifth time that CO has reached the last four. And his initials were engraved on the Brennus shield given to the champion twice, in 2013 and 2018. Castres is well and truly used to the top. Nevertheless, she never shuns her pleasure, entirely dedicated to her oval passion.
A unique proximity with the players
“Castres is an isolated sub-prefecture, where life can sometimes be complicated, and where rugby is an opportunity to unite around a common cause. It’s a source of pride and a very strong identity factor, probably more so than elsewhere. » The one who thus poses the picture is Pierre-Yves Revol, president of the club since 1988 (except between 2008 and 2014), and also president of the Pierre-Fabre Foundation, the pharmaceutical giant from Tarn (2.5 billion euros in revenue in 2021) which abounds the coffers of the club.
The CO is probably not the Tom Thumb that the boss takes pleasure in describing, but he does display a singularity in a rugby landscape dominated by large cities. “We have the tenth budget of the Top 14, and to remain competitive, we need a different recipecontinues Pierre-Yves Revol. Our ingredients? First, an ability to detect unknown talents. Then, to keep them as long as possible by promoting our values, and in particular the important interactions with the population. Finally, essential transmission work, with many former players in the management, retraining that we also support locally. »
In fact, if the CO has players of excellence like the back Julien Dumora, the Fijian center Vilimoni Botitu or the Australian second line Tom Staniforth, he never points out his individualities, always preferring to praise the collective. The players have integrated the discourse and also fade away without hesitating behind the group. Are internationals rare? So much the better, the CO keeps its troops, when the leaders of the championship have to deal with duplicates. The keys to success this year are also there, with the team finishing first in the regular season for the first time.
A quarter of the population at the stadium
No stars at CO therefore, where everyone remains accessible. “There is a real closeness with the players», assures Didier Hardy, former soldier of the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (RPIMa) of Castres, another pillar of the city, and president of the Friends of Rugby, a supporters club born in 2012. “A real familiarity sets in, without it weighing on them, and the players appreciate it. Often, they don’t want to leave anymore. The audience, very family-oriented, pays them back. Even during Covid and games behind closed doors, we were outside the stadium with the sound to support them. »
President of Pouvoir Castres, another association of supporters created in 2005, Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani also applauds the availability of the players. “Seventeen of them are the sponsors of our association, and they very often come to the evenings that we organize or to help us. I’m not sure that’s the case everywhere. »
His brother Julien, ex-president of the association, evokes for his part a “true communion of spirit: during the Covid, we were the first club where the supporters agreed not to be reimbursed for their subscription, and the players the first to agree to a reduction in wages. When you see that a quarter of the city’s population ends up at the Pierre-Fabre stadium every other Sunday, I find that quite beautiful.”.
Pierre Fabre, the name of the creator of pharmaceutical laboratories, who died in 2013, remains unifying in the Tarn city. “It all starts with him, in fact, with his lifelong loyalty to the territory, more patriarch than big bosssummarizes Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani. He remains the dad of the city and of the CO, really. »
Pierre-Yves Revol now ensures the heritage, even evoking the notion of pleasure “wider than sporting or aesthetic pleasure. This team joins the trajectory of the Pierre Fabre group, with one mission: to promote this city. After our title in 2013, many doubted the sustainability of this adventure. We are still here, hoping that we can continue to value this territory for a long time”.
Pierre-Henry Broncan, the leader of men
For ten years, the CO has been working to recruit coaches in line with the club’s philosophy. After the duo of Laurent, Travers and Labit, architects of the first title in 2013, then Christophe Urios at the maneuver for that of 2018, it is Pierre-Henry Broncan who has been in charge since December 2020. The 48-year-old technician, passed by Auch, Stade Toulouse and Bath in England, is in line with the values of Tarn. No sweeping declarations, an incredible knowledge of world rugby which allows him to unearth rare profiles, a pragmatic conception of the game. It’s not always spectacular, but it often wins. Perfect summary of the CO.