CAPE TOWN – So, the Stormers don’t have a helluva lot to lose anymore, even if the results don’t go their way against the Jaguares and the Sharks in their last two Super Rugby meetings for the year.
This season has obviously not been their best. Five wins in 14 chances doesn’t sound good, no matter how you phrase it or what the competition of interest is.
Heck, the results of the last two years - when the Stormers reached the quarter-finals in both 2016 (Robbie Fleck’s first season in charge) and 2017 - probably look a lot more impressive than it did back then. Even that 60-21 beating they suffered at the skilful hands of the Chiefs at Newlands back in 2016 suddenly doesn’t seem as nightmarish as it did while the Faithful were subjected to 80 minutes of it.
And, needless to say, their tight 17-11 defeat to the same opposition last year now almost looks heroic, although there wasn’t a lot wrong with that effort to begin with. It was a good performance then and it looks even better now - both in terms of the score (obviously) and also on-field performances.
If you had to ask Fleck about what they’d like to take out of the next two games, he’d probably say that there’s still the pride aspect. After all, this is sport - pride and confidence always matter, it doesn’t matter where you find yourself on the standings. And when their 25-man touring squad for the trip to Buenos Aires was announced on Monday, the Stormers coach said that they are looking forward to “giving a good account” of themselves and that they will approach the game against the Argentinians with a “fresh mindset” following the international break - during which the players enjoyed two weeks off.
So, it seems like we’ve narrowed the Stormers’ "to gain” list down to pride, confidence (which will certainly help with a pre-season boost) and of course a few extra log points. And if you want to take a patriotic look at things, a win for the Stormers over the firing Jaguares can also give their fellow countrymen, the Lions, a little nudge in terms of getting a healthy lead in the South African conference (they are currently six points clear of the second-placed Jaguares).
But there’s another reason we should look forward to the Stormers’ last outings in 2018.
A few weeks ago, another player exodus reminded SA - the Stormers in particular - about the luring power of Europe’s currency.
The Stormers announced that wing Raymond Rhule would join experienced prop JC Janse van Rensburg at French side Grenoble. Nizaam Carr, who made a massive impact at the Ricoh Arena during his stint there as injury cover, will be joining Wasps on a permanent basis following the Super Rugby season, while scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage will also head abroad to join Italian club Benetton Treviso.
There can be no doubt that that trio will want to make the next two memories with the Stormers - before kick-starting a new competition with new teams - a positive one.
Who would want to go into preparations with a new team with a bitter taste in the mouth?
For Carr, the next two games will be even more important, after all, he joined Wasps on a permanent deal. And he will also want to have them welcome him with the same level of enthusiasm they must have shown when he put pen to paper. They remember him as an extremely exciting prospect, so I can’t think of a reason why he wouldn’t want to say “cheers” to Cape Town in style.
Then there’s Rhule, who has looked threatening on attack with the Stormers when he had the chance and should look to show his attacking know-how against another exciting team in the Jaguares. And then in their coastal derby against the Sharks.
You get the picture, the same will apply to Duvenage. All three of them should want to perform. So if you haven’t been grabbed by excitement ahead of the Stormers’ last two games, hopefully those three can help.