What’s the special ingredient? The mark of a good team is being able to overcome obstacles and still win. We’ve seen countless examples of such feats; the one that stands out the most in rugby terms in the last year or so is the Crusaders, who went all the way to the Super Rugby final last year, despite not having played a game on home soil because of the earthquakes that rocked Christchurch.
This season in Super Rugby we’ve seen something similar, if not quite as special as the Crusaders’ march to the final last season. The Stormers may not play the most exciting rugby and they may not go all the way this year – in fact, I don’t think they’ll win the title – but they remain a very classy outfit, who are able to play above themselves at times.
The fact that they lead the South African Conference and are second in the Super Rugby standings without having been able to use Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen all season tells you something about the team and its spirit. And the fact Bryan Habana and Joe Pietersen had to withdraw at the last moment ahead of this last weekend’s clash with the Lions, yet they still won, is proof of just how much quality and depth there is in Cape rugby. Rynhardt Elstadt, Andries Bekker, Steven Kitshoff and Eben Etzebeth and Nick Koster have also either been injured or sat out through injury at times this season – ensuring the Stormers have never quite been a settled unit – yet they have continued to win more often that they have lost.
But it’s not only depth of quality that helps a team through the tough times and when injuries hit. It’s something else that helps them to win – a special ingredient that no one can quite put their finger on. The Stormers have it at the moment, the Bulls have had it in the past and the Crusaders seem to have it by the bucketful.
Is it confidence and self-belief, is it history or is it simply form and momentum? What is it that makes certain teams just that much better than others? Yes, the quality of players makes a difference as does the coaching, but there is something else that separates the winners and losers. Whatever it is, the Lions are in desperate need of the ingredient. Sure, they’ve had terrible luck with the injury situation this season but, as the Stormers have proved, if you’re good enough and determined enough you can beat the injury bug. With their Super Rugby challenge over (they’ve got two games left and are bottom of the log), here’s hoping the Lions can find their own special ingredient in the Currie Cup.