The Stormers should have little difficulty sidestepping the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday night after spending the early part of this week evading “a lot of sideshows”.
“There are a lot of sideshows going on in Cape Town,” coach Allister Coetzee told reporters after training yesterday afternoon. “But I’m focused on the job at hand.”
Reports suggested that the players were at loggerheads with administrators over a shortfall in match fees and win bonuses, but the Cape Argus has been reliably informed that a meeting between the players, the SA Rugby Players’ Association (Sarpa) and Western Province officials lasted less than 10 minutes before all parties concerned reached the conclusion that they are satisfied with the current agreement.
“This is not an issue among the players,” Stormers veteran Jean de Villiers said in a press release. “The players are a settled and happy unit.”
Coetzee was quick to point out that the issue of remuneration had not been raised by the players, and that his charges should not be compared to the class of 1999 who threatened strike action on the eve of a home semifinal against the Highlanders, which they inevitably lost.
“This is a different class we have here,” he said. “We’ve got a different culture and our players have a much better deal than the 1999 class had. We’re focused on our campaign and nothing else.”
Having put out one fire, Coetzee then had to pour cold water on reports that flyhalf Peter Grant had been signed to a one-year extension.
“It’s just another rumour, another sideshow,” he said. “I (am the one responsible for) talking about player movement, and I will do so in the near future.”
The coach did confirm that the bid to sign former Stormers and Springbok flanker Francois Louw to a loan deal from English club Bath had failed.
“The plan with Francois Louw didn’t come off, he’s not coming. We will have to make do with what we have. I have confidence in our Vodacom Cup players, but that doesn’t mean I won’t look elsewhere.”
Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster have been ruled out with knee injuries until at least the end of June, and Coetzee would thus like to add a ball-carrying loose forward to the squad.
“Our need is for a seven or an eight with Duane and Nick out,” he said.
WP lock-cum-flank Don Armand is tipped for a call-up, though he limped from the training field yesterday. “It’s just a knock to the knee, but he’s really fine – it’s just a bruise,” added Coetzee.
The Stormers will be chasing a sixth consecutive win against their Free State rivals when the teams clash this week. But Coetzee has pre-empted the threat of complacency by reminding his men of the brutality of a conference derby.
“We have to intensify everything. We spoke about going through the motions and it’s not on – you become mediocre if you are content with what has been achieved.”
The Stormers trail the Bulls by one point in the conference race , and a loss will undo the good work of their recent three-win tour.
“We had a fantastic tour, but nothing has been achieved yet. We’ve had a week off, and the tour has been put to bed, but we won’t just automatically be (at the same level that) we were on tour, and we’ve had a good chat about that.
“For us, it’s about getting our focus right, getting over the week off and getting back on the saddle.”