Could the turmoil that the Stormers are currently in be just the catalyst to finally kick-start their season?
Something had to give if you lose four out of five games, which followed their worst season since 2009 last year, when they failed to make the playoffs. Western Province Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield may not be the most popular man in some quarters for holding a crisis meeting with the management after the Brumbies defeat, but what did they expect?
The shabby state that the Stormers are in shouldn’t be allowed to degenerate further. Whatever changes there may be in the next few weeks, captain Jean de Villiers made it clear this week that the players are taking responsibility for their role in the mess they are also in.
And South African sporting teams often respond to adversity, and De Villiers was hopeful that he would be able to inspire his team as the captain.
“You sort of need to get a feeling as to what the mood in the camp is like, and try and see if you can just go about the way you think is appropriate. It changes, and we do have a diverse squad and some guys are on their first tour and others have been with the Stormers for a long time,” he said.
“But there is a very big group that hasn’t been with us for a long time. It makes it difficult, but I think you test yourself in times like this, and hopefully I can make the right decisions and say the right words, and give inspiration for a victory.”
The defence has been the cornerstone of the Stormers over the last few years, but it is a negative concept by nature. It is part of the general mood that has enveloped the Stormers, but it seems as if they are trying hard to move away from that focus.
Coetzee has spoken excitedly about his new backline, and he feels Juan de Jongh can make a difference and actually give the Reds something to think about.
“Jubies (De Jongh) has got the X-factor and has to be as direct as he can be, using his feet and making sure that he breaks that defence line. He showed it last week and hopefully he can do it this week,” said the coach.
“I must say the Reds are one of the most penalised sides at the breakdown, so we need that go-forward over the advantage line to ease our breakdown concerns. They do flood the breakdown and have a go, so winning the gain-line battle will be important, and Jubies, with his stepping ability, can give that to us.”
De Jongh’s good friend Gio Aplon could be an even more important component of the Stormers’ attack, as he will have much more space to manoeuvre in compared to De Jongh, De Villiers, Damian de Allende and Sailosi Tagicakibau. Aplon has had a few memorable moments, but as a senior player, he needs to get much more involved.
“The Reds do have a number of threats, so we will be tested on defence. But they give you a lot of opportunities because they throw everything into their attack. We need to keep chipping away and not make those errors on defence, and we need to capitalise on our attacking opportunities,” De Villiers said.
“I honestly do think our attack has improved a lot. There is a willingness to get the ball in hand and to have a go. We might not have got the rewards, but there has been an improvement. Hopefully we can sort out the first phase, which we struggled with due to new combinations.
“You want to go into the last few minutes with the lead and keep on attacking and try to be offensive rather than defensive.”
Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper. Bench: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Faingaa, 23 Ben Lucas.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Tazz Fuzani, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Jaco Taute.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand). Kickoff: 10.40am SA time. TV: M-Net/ SS1/SS HD1. - Cape Times