Stormers show how good they could be‚ but …
Boardroom squabbles fail to distract a motivated and united team from beating the Bulls in Super Hero Sunday clash
There were glimpses of how good the Stormers could be during their 33-28 win over the Bulls in a pre-season Super Hero Sunday clash, but the sliver lining is surrounded by a dark cloud.
Warring factions in the Western Province hierarchy‚ where elected officials on the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) executive committee are trying to wrestle power away from the board of WP Rugby (the professional arm)‚ have overshadowed the season’s build up.
The power struggle has already drawn the players into its vortex after a senior delegation made it clear they wanted assistant coach Paul Treu out last week.
The WPR board has agreed to begin an exit strategy for Treu‚ but the WPRFU executive committee wants Treu‚ not only to stay on‚ but also to be promoted to director of rugby.
Against this backdrop‚ which is having a negative impact on players and staff‚ Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is trying to prepare for a Super Rugby campaign.
In front of nearly 50,000 at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday‚ his team‚ which did not include many of its Springbok stars‚ showed remarkable grit to subdue a good Bulls unit.
It was a performance that showed the team at least‚ are united‚ even if the union is determined to tear itself apart in the boardroom. Captain on the day Chris van Zyl said that the team remained focused on doing their job on the field.
“We said from the outset that we were going to focus on the controllables and what we can do‚” said Van Zyl. “There’s a good feeling in the squad‚ and that was tangible in the way the guys defended and attacked against the Bulls today.
“Whatever happened off the field had no impact on the way we played.”
Fleck believes that the so-called “B-team” have put pressure on the swathe of Boks who did not play as they are still a few weeks behind in their preparation.
“It’s only healthy for our group that a lot of our players stepped up today‚” Fleck said. It’s good to see that we’ve built depth. It gives us a lot of energy and confidence knowing we could match them‚ especially in the first half.
“It’s certainly good for our youngsters‚ not a lot of them have played against players of that calibre, or in front of a crowd of almost 50,000. We’ve been trying to build this team over the last four years‚ and this will certainly give us confidence. It was a really great outing for us.
“The big difference between this year and last year is last year we didn’t have too much big competition in the group. This year we do‚ and it improves our training sessions so much‚ so hopefully we’ll play better.”