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“I’M starting to doubt myself, and doubt my captaincy.”
That was the emotional reaction from Stormers and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers after seeing his team crash out in a Super Rugby home semi-final for the second year in a row.
After topping the log for the first time, the Stormers had their best chance yet to win the title, as victory on Saturday would’ve secured a home final at Newlands this weekend.
But they couldn’t recover from a 10-point blitz in 13 minutes from the Sharks after halftime to go down 26-19.
A visibly distraught De Villiers said that the Stormers were unable to come up with the answers to counter the classy Sharks.
“Well, I must be honest, I’m starting to doubt myself, and doubt my captaincy. When you’ve been in this situation so many times, you do start to doubt yourself and start looking very deep at what’s the real issue.
“You try to get answers, but it’s tough – you don’t really know what to say. Again, the commitment was there ...
“I said in the change room that we were in some dark places this season, and came out on top. And for that, I am very proud of this team. But it’s a pity about this game, though. You try to get answers, and sometimes the answer that you get is that you start to doubt yourself.
“Hopefully I will feel better by Monday, but it’s difficult. It’s not a good feeling. We worked so hard during the season and been through many dark times and came out on top. We had such great support, so to disappoint the fans is what makes it worse for the players.”
What made it more difficult for De Villiers to deal with the defeat was the fact that the Stormers camp had felt that they had been as well prepared as possible for the semi-final.
“We were probably beaten by the better team on the day. It’s a tough one to swallow, let me be honest. But then I ask myself: Could we have prepared better? No. Did we have the attitude on the field? Yes. Was the commitment there? Yes,” he said.
“It probably came down to not taking those opportunities that we did create. It came down to a kick that bounced their way, and they scored. That was the difference in the end. It will take a while to get over it, but we have to give credit to the Sharks.
“The pressure will always be there, and a lot of the time, it is the pressure we put on ourselves as well. Last year, we sat here and we were definitely outplayed by the Crusaders.
“Now, I can say that we pitched up and gave it a hell of a go. We have to take out the positives, and it will be very tough to swallow. But we are getting there, in very small steps.”