CAPE TOWN – Everybody has an “off day at the office”, says Joshua Stander.
The Stormers flyhalf was referring to the 41-22 drubbing they took against the Lions at Ellis Park last week - a game in which the Stormers didn’t play like a team desperately hunting a win to keep their Super Rugby play-off hopes alive.
To be fair, though, the team have been avalanched by injuries recently, and those injuries were to key players up front.
Eben Etzebeth, Cobus Wiese and Seabelo Senatla were added to the Stormers’ injury list during the Highveld loss, a result which saw the Lions jump both the Stormers and Sharks in the South African conference.
Captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kobus van Dyk are also sidelined, while hooker Scarra Ntubeni was forced out on the eve of the game.
The disruption those injuries have caused would hurt any team. But if the Stormers want to have a crack at a wildcard spot, their remaining games against the Sunwolves and the Sharks are must-wins, while they’ll also have to hope other results go their way.
Saturday’s Newlands fixture is going to be as much a mental task as a physical one (not like that shouldn’t always be the case anyway), and Robbie Fleck’s side can’t allow themselves to go into the contest feeling like victims.
Against the Lions, the Stormers’ scrum struggled, while their defence had also seen better days.
And while those injuries would surely have played a part, they’re going to have to put all of that aside going forward.
And it’s something Stander agreed on.
“It’s definitely possible (to make the play-offs),” Stander said. “We had a good look at ourselves. Sometimes you have an off day at the office, but we’re all very motivated.
“We’re looking forward to playing at Newlands again in front of the faithful and the boys are really keen. We need to get the team together and then go from there. You always have injuries during a season, we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We just need to see where you can go from there.
“It’s never easy having so many disruptions. You just have to work around it. We have to work hard for each other and fight for each other.”
None of the Stormers’ mishaps can happen again. The Sunwolves might not come with a danger flag that flies as high as the Lions’, but given the Cape side’s situation, there can be no room for complacency.
“It’s going to be tough, there’s no easy game in Super Rugby. But we’re going to focus on what we do well and control what we can and take it game by game,” Stander said.@WynonaLouw