Stormers want to play a brand that suits the Western Cape, says Labeeb Levy
CAPE TOWN After – being criticised for playing with their forwards and kicking too much last season, the Stormers are well on their way to rediscovering their natural style of creative rugby – if Friday night’s performance against the Bulls is anything to go by.
The man who took charge of the team for the match, Labeeb Levy, is the technical analyst and skills coach, and it was evident that there was a greater emphasis on exactly those aspects of their play at Loftus Versfeld.
And it nearly paid off, with the Capetonians denied a victory right at the end after No 8 Juarno Augustus lost the ball over the line in the act of scoring, with the Bulls winning 34-29.
Levy brought a fresh perspective to the side, and explained in the post-match press conference that the team had bought into the concept of playing with greater intent with ball-in-hand ahead of the Rainbow Cup.
“We are in a transformation phase in terms of playing style. We want to play a brand that we think suits the Western Cape in particular, and part of it is to have good scrummaging, good set-piece, good lineouts, good kickoffs – and obviously give the ball a bit of air, and the boys played the ball into space a bit,” he said.
“Going to Europe, we don’t actually know what exactly is going to hit us, but we also want to bring something different. We know they play a certain type of style, and maybe we need to adapt to that. But we need to prepare for all sorts of styles.
“We are going for a balanced game. I can say we are going for a game that suits all facets, and not only focusing on one facet. Our players want that, and our coaches also feel they want that, and we know that the people want that – as you said, the Cape Town, Province style.
“But we also have to do it responsibly, because weather, as well as certain teams’ defences, and their kicking games – you have to have the arsenal to mix it up in both aspects, running and kicking.”
But the positive approach certainly seemed to benefit the likes of fullback Damian Willemse – who varied his game superbly with the boot and by taking on the Bulls defence with ball-in-hand – as well as centre Rikus Pretorius and wing Leolin Zas, who scored a brace.
“I know Damian from nine years old – playing beach touch in Cape Town – so I know him very well. I had some nice heart-to-heart chats with him to say listen, play the way I know you since you were young. Play the way you did as a teenager at school, etc,” Levy said about Willemse.
“But also be smart in certain territory, and I was so happy for the guy because he really stepped up and played with confidence. His error-rate was low; he made good kicking decisions; he was safe under the high ball – I think he missed one.
“He guided the backline well from behind, and people could see his beautiful footwork – and that is what he was born to do… to play, man. I’m so proud of him.”