Stormers fans to pretend they’re “not that into rugby” this week

What part of Christchurch are you from, son?

What part of Christchurch are you from, son?

After talking a good game in the office last week, Stormers fans will be pretending they’re “not that into” Super Rugby this week as they return to face their coworkers. It’s a time honored tradition in the Cape. All of a sudden there are lot more important things in life than rugby.

When faced with one of those irritating “kiwi” supporters here are a few lines to help you get through the week at office.

  • Oh, did the Stormers lose? Oh… That must be nice for you, seeing as you follow rugby and all that. Yeah… I don’t really get to make time for rugby. Are the Crusaders a good team? Where are they from?
  • Is your family from the North Island or the South Island?
  • I don’t get to watch games as I spend every weekend volunteering at a soup kitchen for orphans. It’s important to get my priorities in life right.
  • What part of Christchurch are you from, son? [then mutter in a soft whisper…. “C@ck!” as your coworker walks away.]. Note: if this coworker is in any way connected to paying your salary you should definitely say “Nothing” if they suddenly spin around and ask you to repeat what you just said.

If you are in a position of authority you don’t need any witty one liners at work this week. Just remember to put an incriminating note in the offending employee’s permanent HR file.

Where are they now? (Part 4) – Robbie Fleck

Remember Robbie Fleck?!

Well neither did I…until I caught a glimpse of him high-fiving Stormers’ coach Alistair Coetzee during their win over the Brumbies this weekend.

From memory Fleck was a fairly decent, if not exciting, centre for the Boks back when grunge music was still popular. His slightly cocky rich-kid demeanour  always made me think he’d look more at home in an episode of Beverley Hills 90210, rather than chasing a ball around a rugby field with a bunch of plebs.

See what I mean…

Surf's up...plus daddy's shares in Indonesian palm-oil are looking good too! Awesome.

Surf’s up…plus daddy’s shares in Indonesian palm-oil are looking good too! Awesome.

You can imagine my surprise to find that Robbie has not gone on to be the MD of a trendy new media start-up company, and is in fact the assistant back-line coach for the Stormers. This is probably popular knowledge among most Super Rugby aficionados, but it came as a shock to me. I had higher hopes for young Robbie.

I can only assume it’s been a bit of a shock for him too, cos he’s gone completely grey. When did that happen?! Not that it’s a bad thing, I mean look at Richard Gere and that fellow Gandalf. They’ve done pretty well for themselves!

Good for you Flecky…no need to hide your true colours.

You may want to try a touch of sunblock from time to time though…

Robbie 'Salt 'n Peppa' Fleck

Robbie ‘Salt ‘n Peppa’ Fleck

 

 

 

Stormers re-enact the annual traditional choke

Against all odds, the Stormers managed to pull off a fantastic 26-19 choke against the Sharks at home.  Amazingly, this choke came after finishing first on the log, breaking the record for regular season wins and after a bye week.   The Stormers really had to dig deep to find a way to restore the faith that their fans have in them, namely that they can choke a season from any position of strength.

Alistair Coetzee revealed how much work went into this game in the post match interview:

“I’m really proud of the boys today.  I know a lot of people in the media had written us off and said we weren’t capable of a choke again, but I knew all week long we could do it.  The boys put in a lot of work in the training ground making sure that Brok Harris would be first receiver in any situation where we get good quick ruck ball.  It was also drilled into the half backs that they need to kick possession aimlessly away whenever we get forward momentum.  I’m just so proud of those efforts”

The Stormer’s have a long history of choking in the Super Rugby tournament stretching back to the first famous choke against the Highlanders in their home semi-final back in 1999.   Concern mounted this year ahead of the playoffs that since getting rid of players generally concerned pivotal to the choking game, such as Nakalavuki and Naas Olivier (remember those days?) the Stormers might not be able to produce that all important choke when it was needed.  With Peter Grant in superb kicking form and even Bryan Habana looking good this season the odds were piling up against the Stormers.

A  relieved Newlands witnessed the cold fact that their beloved team still has the magic touch in the big games.

Vital to any choking strategy is the need to get Brok Harris good quality second phase ball to put him in the decision maker role in the backline.

Super 15 preview: SA conference

It’s that time of the year again.  Time to start skipping varsity lectures, updating your Superbru during work hours, and generally losing every bet you can because of your unreasonable faith in South African teams somehow being able to “pull of a surprise playing in Christchurch”.

STORMERS

Coach: Super Rugby’s cuddliest coach, Allister Coetzee, has a lot to prove after being passed over for the Bok coach.  His biggest problem?  A trophy cabinet as empty and hollow as the latest Maroon Five album.  If the cuddle monster can’t win trophy’s he won’t be putting on that Bok coaching jersey any time soon.

Captain: The man. The legend.  Terror of all you can eat buffet bars everywhere. Schalk Burger. Beautiful freak.

Man to watch: Andries Bekker. An 8 foot tall freak of a man, capable of two carrying basket balls in one hand (try that) while simultaneously running like a winger and calling in his stock market trades from his Bluetooth headset.  New Zealanders are in awe of him, girls love him, and fashionistas everywhere are horrified by his mullet.  With Big Vic finally leaving the Bok scene, this is Bekker’s year to shine.

Summary: Every year it is the same old story.  The Stormers look good in pre-season.  The local Cape Times and Argus report that Habana is “back to his best form” in the training facilities.  Unfortunately by that they mean his table tennis skills because they can’t possibly be referring to his rugby form can they?  Round about midway through the season the Stormers put on a display of rugby that is everything you ever want in a team.  They whip the Blues 65 to 0 in New Zealand.  People start fantasizing about a Newlands final.  Then they cock it up somehow when it really matters.  Everybody gets wasted at that really disgusting bar in the Grand Stand.  Don’t put me through that again, I just don’t think I can handle it.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune:  Your Own Worst Enemy.

BULLS

Coach: Frans Ludeke. What a career plan, follow on the coat tails of Heyneke Meyer.  Don’t change anything. Use the structures and players your predecessor put in place. Watch the trophies come rolling in.

Captain: Pierre Spies.  Underwear model.  Former hurdles champion.  The man your girlfriend really wants to have sex with when she pretends she’s into you.  But he hasn’t actually done anything remotely resembling a rugby play in the last 3 years.  But he does look good in a tight shirt. So there’s that.

Man to watch: Johann Sadie.  As is usually the case with players who transfer to the Bulls something about the setup brings out the best in them.  This promising backline player will be sorely missed by the Stormers.  Especially when they check Jean de Villiers ID document and discover that Jean is actually 82 years old.

Summary:  There’s one slight problem with Ludeke’s grand plan of not changing anything that Heyneke Meyer put in place, including allowing Victor Matfield to coach himself and be in charge of his own disciplinary hearings.  Eventually people get old and leave.  Then you’re royally screwed.  The Bulls starting line up this weekend is missing a host of the regulars.  No Bakkies, Du Preez or Matfield.   It doesn’t bode well for the season ahead.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Wages of Sin.  You just know big ol’ Vic gave them a talking to about getting right with the Right.

CHEETAHS

Coach: Naka Drotske has been honing his Tony Soprano impersonation all summer long.  A grizzled veteran with a face straight out of New Jersey and a trophy cabinet as empty as ….

Captain: Adrian Strauss– has more syllables in his name than caps…experience isn’t everything, is it?

Man to watch: Heinrich  Brussouw.  Big Daddy Rugby’s personal hero.  The Lobster Boy is everything you want in a loose forward. Intelligent, scrappy with an unbelievable ability to sneak turnovers out of nowhere.  If you were stuck in a Shawshank Redemption prison and badly needed a nail file, a box of playing cards and two nylon guitar strings for your escape, Heinrich “Scrounger” Brussouw would be your man.

Summary: The Cheetah’s are well and truly screwed this year as they are every year.  They are a talent farm for the rest of the country with the Sharks in particular waving big coastal money in the bright eyes of promising farm boys while Cheetah’s talent scouts look on helplessly.  They can’t retain the depth needed to be an effective team, so despite the flashiness of the odd upset, they are on their way out.  They’re not politically connected enough either to keep themselves from being replaced by the Kings next season.  Enjoy it while it lasts fellows.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: I’m Goin’ Down

SHARKS

Coach: John Plumtree.  What is up with those ears John?  I can’t stop staring at them.

Captain: Keegan Daniel.  I got nothing here.  There’s not much to say about a captain who allows his coach to recruit Marius Joubert.   Marius Joubert.  Wasn’t he in his glory days before they invented the internet?

Player to watch:  Pat Lambie.  The man most rugby fans south of Pretoria want to dislodge Morne Steyn from the Green and Gold number 10 jersey.  If only he didn’t look like he just got done playing soccer for the Sweet Valley under 10s.  Maybe it’s the band-aid on his knee, or the fluffy do on his head.  He doesn’t exactly instil fear with his looks.  But he’s the closest thing South Africa have had to a complete flyhalf since the days I hacked by my Playstation and built that fake player on EA Sports Rugby.

Summary: The team known more for its cheerleaders and its slavish devotion to John Smit than for its trophy winning ability will again put out the best squad this year out of the Saffer franchises.  Oh, you meant the rugby team not the cheerleaders?  In that case, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: My Best Was Never Good Enough.  (That one’s for you Bismarck.)

LIONS

Coach: John Mitchell.  He is scary enough that you’d probably want to play your best so that he doesn’t give you “that look” in the dressing room after the game.

Captain: Josh Strauss.  Will he? Won’t he?  Shave his beard?  Release a new four track indie-folk record?  Lions management must love having this hippie folk rocker on their payroll.  He is Google gold-dust.

Player to watch: Elton Jantjies.  Webster himself.  Mini Carlos Spencer.  Except he can kick.

Summary:  For some reason it takes years between a South African rugby team winning the Currie Cup and becoming a decent Super Rugby team.  I’ve never quite figured that out.  Like the Cheetahs, depth is a problem.  It’s all very well winning domestic trophies while the Boks are away, but you get exposed at Super Rugby level if you don’t have enough quality players to call on.  Luckily for Lions there is far too much money sloshing around Ellis Park for them to ever be allowed to be relegated.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Don’t Look Back.  (Best sung as you’re bulletting straight out of Ellis Park.  Whatever you do.  Don’t. Look. Back.)

The cuddle monster wants a trophy so bad he can almost taste it.

Stormers Front Row: Harden the Hell Up

Geez… Saturday was the gut-wrenching stuff up that you have nightmares about when you decide to wear your Stormers jersey to work on a Friday. It’s a good thing I watched this game on the telly and started downing my drinks quickly in the first half so that my memory of the second half of the Stormers Crusaders match was merely a haze of alchohol and regret rather than the cold stark lonely reality faced by those who stayed sober enough at the game to be able to pass the breathalyser test from the coppers on Main Road.

Stormers front rowers at midweek practice prior to the Crusaders game.

The Stormers front row were atrociously poor, and it was all too predictable in that My Little Pony kind of way. Bloody hell Rassie – everybody knows that the Stormers haven’t had a decent front row since the early nineties. Why didn’t you just bring out the rolls of cash and buy some animal from the Northern Hemisphere if the Western Cape is only good for producing wine snobs?  Please, no more props who look like they just came from under 10s practice and are more concerned about being in the back line than about doing the hard work up front. If I see another front rower making a “cover tackle” or standing at first receiver I’m personally going to start stocking up on naartjies for 2012.

We don’t want some flash prop with pink boots making good runs. We want some crazy hardened psychopath that is on multiple restraining orders and makes Hannibal Lecter take a backward step. I’m talking Pollsmoor prison “Crazy Eights” style, not this “Bishops Boy who has got a bit of pace” rubbish we’ve been subjected to for the last decade.  Let’s get us some man eating front rowers who have bits of loose-forward’s scrum caps between their teeth.  The kind of guy who was rejected for the part of Friday the 13th part X for being too disturbing.

And Stormers front row: we’re not done with you yet, there’s a message from Chopper Reid for you (may be NSFW depending on your office politics):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unkIVvjZc9Y?rel=0]

Oy – and if on the odd chance there is a Stormers player reading this blog who’d like to point out the irony of a blogger telling a rugby player to harden up, just remember I chose to work in an office cubicle all day – you chose to mix it with the All Black front rowers on a weekly basis. I’ve hardened up to the reality of having to file my TPS reports on a weekly basis with the cover sheets on.  Have you hardened up to what it takes to play rugby?

Dr Evil plots his revenge on the Stormers

Somewhere deep under the Pacific Ocean Dr Evil Naka Drotske sits in his undersea lair plotting his revenge on the Stormers this weekend.  In true South African style, you can bet your bottom R5 coin that the Cheetahs are going to be raising their game this upcoming weekend in order to screw the chances of the rest of the country.

In a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the Super 12, the minnows of South African rugby save their best games of the season in order to screw up the chances of other local teams. You can bet the Cheetahs will be on top of their game this weekend.

Hell, we could make it a double header.  The Cheetahs can screw up the Stormers season and the Bulls can be knocked out of the Super 15 by the Sharks.

Who remembers Gaffie du Toit saving his one good game of the season to eliminate the Stormers and when the Bulls were still the doormats of Super rugby to them pulling one out of the fire at Loftus to dick up another Sharks season?

You can be sure that the SA teams already eliminated from the competition will be pulling out all the stops to stuff up everyone else’s season.  Who will the new villain of SA semi-final hopes be this time around?

Geez boys, I thought we’d grown out of the “if I can’t have it – no one else can” mentality.

Dr Evil Naka Drotske will be putting it all on the line to stuff up Cape Townian dreams this weekend.

What a weekend!

What a weekend for South African rugby fans.  It’s been a long long time since Saffer Super Rugby franchises played so well against their Antipodean opponents.

In the dark days of my college studies, I can still remember several weekends where the South African franchises all managed to lose against their overseas opposition and the only (relatively) bright moment was a South African win over another South African team.  I’d like to go back to my old college self and tell him things will change my friend.

All South African teams playing Aussies and Kiwis won this weekend.  Sure the Cheetahs managed to lose to the Bulls, but somebody had to, and in doing so they allowed the boys in blue shirts to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.

As if that wasn’t enough for you rugger loving Saffers out there, the Blitzbokke managed another top performance to win the 7’s in Edinburgh with a come from behind freak three tries in two minutes jail break against Australia.

If you’ve ever worn a green and gold t-shirt and tried to sing the anthemwhile simultaneously shoving biltong and Klippies down your throat, then this was your weekend! I hope you made the most of it. Heck, I hope for your sake you bought extra lottery tickets, placed money on your Superbru and even tried drunk-dialling Danica Patrick hoping for she’d remember that time you cheered for her when watching Indy on the telly.

Danica Patrick. Sometimes the sporting gods can look down upon us with favour.

On the flip side,here is a cautionary note to any girlfriends out there who have rugby loving South African boyfriends.  If he was still moody and depressed this weekend, it’s time for a change, because it doesn’t get much better than this for SA rugby fans.

Yes, it’s true that only one SA franchise is likely to make the playoffs this season, but it can’t be discounted just how significant winning in New Zealand is for South African rugby as a whole.  This is the stuff that goes into your memory banks and makes you believe you can win matches from behind. Winning is a habit as they say. Even if the Stormers don’t go on to claim the Super 15 title, the fact that the Stormers came from behind to win a match against a quality NZ team at the venue where the world cup final will be played will not be lost on the players themselves.

Just as well us South African fans had a good weekend. We’re still owed plenty from the Rudolf Straeuli era.

Vintage Stuart Dickinson makes another game “about him”

Dickinson contemplating how best to screw up the game he is officiating.

Early warning to readers – I haven’t had my customary post Stormers loss “cooling off period” before I wrote this piece. Stuart Dickinson is a name that lives infamy for most South African rugby fans.  It’s fair to say he rivals Malema in unpopularity in some parts of the republic. Dickinson has been at the hands of a many a shocking call going back to the early days of Super rugby, even calling 16 consecutive penalties against the Stormers and none for them in a memorable Dickinson performance several years ago.  Dickinson has lost none of his charm since then.

Cut to the Waikato game today where the Stormers were in cruise control up 20-3 against a Chiefs team that looked tired and jaded. Aplon and Kahui were in a chase for the ball in the in-goal area, with Aplon holding his line and appearing to hold onto Kahui as he dove for the ball.

Now I am as biased as anyone out there, but even the kiwi commentators were saying it was touch and go whether or not a penalty try could be awarded.  The irritating part of this TMO decision was that when it was referred to the television ref, Dickinson practically got on his knees and begged the TMO to give him a reason to give Aplon a yellow. Not once.  Twice.  He reminded the TMO that he was looking for another incident in addition to the try.  The result was a yellow for Aplon and a penalty try (talk about double jeopardy) and even more of a points swing during the 10 minute sin-bin.

The Stormers 2nd half performance (throwing away a 20-3 lead) was dismal enough on its own to deserve the loss. Dickinson doesn’t get full credit for the choke, the halfback combination of the Stormers was also woeful. But Dickinson is the kind of guy that brings out the worst in rugby fans.

The really irritating thing about his performance was not only this incident, or that when Peter Grant received a massive “no-arms” early hit he only blew a penalty, but it is the way that Dickinson, like Wayne Barnes, needs to feel like he has made an impact on the game.  He has the look of one of those refs that isn’t happy unless the camera is on him making the big decisive calls and asserting his authority Eric Cartman-like on the game (respect-my-authoritah!).

What rubbed salt into the wounds was that, as followthebounce correctly tweeted, you could just imagine Arnold Geerts in the Supersport studio drooling at the prospect of being able to call it “a game of two halves”.  Cut to studio, hey presto and Arnold did not disappoint.  I hate to be “one of those fans”, but seriously – Dickinson cocked this game up.

Refs like this really ruin games from being a spectacle about players to a spectacle about the correctness or incorrectness of their calls.  Well done Stuart – you managed yet again to make a good game about you rather than about rugby.

For the record – the Stormers went on to lose 23-30.

Midseason wrap – Newlands loss was the canary in the coal mine for SA teams

Well that’s it folks. You can plan to have your wedding on June 9 now, because the weekend of the Super 15 final sure as heck ain’t going to be a weekend to celebrate South African rugby. The Stormers’ loss this weekend is the early signal that the trophy cabinets will be empty this year.

The format of the competition gives South Africa one freebie in the post-season. By virtue of the conference system one South African team has to go through. And that will be about it. It doesn’t look likely that any South African team will be good enough to earn a home advantage for the business end of the post-season. And that will kill you.

Here’s why it will be a trophy-less Super 15 for the teams from the Republic:

Lions and Cheetahs: both teams used to be part of the old Cats franchise. And they still play like it. Despite promising starts to the season, they let you down each week with atrocious defence and an inability to grind out close games. Clearly both teams have been implementing Dick Muir’s patented “Red Sea” defence. Here’s a clue: when Kobus Wiese introduces your team as likely to be involved in an exciting match because they are “great on attack” you know it’s just a euphemism for having crap defence. Next to that defence, anything looks “great”.

Bulls: Heyneke’s influence is over and the structures he put in place are no longer supporting the new management team. When your play is based on the simple premise of stuffing up everyone up front and grinding them into the dirt it’s hard to win when your squad is made up retired bridge players and little old ladies from the church fund-raiser. This team is old, old, old.

Sharks: A win over the ship going down known as the Brumbies doesn’t save the Sharkies I am afraid. A poor overseas tour left them with a lot of hard work to do and this isn’t the same Sharks squad of a few years ago that could pull the late season comeback off. There’s no young John Smit charging up the middle of the park and no Francois Steyn banging over drop goals from the parking lot of the Shoprite-Checkers outside Kings Park stadium.

Stormers: Despite whatever Kool-Aid other SA rugby outlets were drinking, the Stormers were the best bet to bring home the title for South Africa. However, this weekend’s loss against the Crusaders exposes a cruel truth. They just don’t have a pack capable of domination. Yes, having the flash of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie will get you through the mid-table games against the Aussies, but if you want to compete against the Blues and the Crusaders you need to have some serious uglies in your front row. The Stormers have hookers, but their props are more interested in looking flash in the backline then they are in doing the hard work. Here’s a clue that you have a totally shit front row: Supersport commentators glow about how much work your props get done “around the paddock”. In other words, they aren’t scumming or mauling – they’re just looking pretty hanging out on the wing.

That’s all folks. Your June 9 weekend should open up for a round of 18 or that wedding you need to go to.

The Stormer's loss against the Crusaders signals a doomed Super 15 for SA teams.

The “Not so faithful” Newlands fans

There’s two types of South African rugby fan which makes me throw up just a little bit in my mouth, and unfortunately with the arrival of the Crusaders this week, Newlands on Saturday will not be as “Pro-Stormers” as one would like to think it would be.

I’m not about to get into the politics of our country, or our rugby teams for that matter, we’re very much a post-isolation blog here at Big Daddy Rugby, but it has to be said that the folk who come to watch rugby at Newlands purely to support the opposition are some seriously “stuck in the past” people.

I was at the Crusaders game at Newlands last season (or was it two seasons ago?) and I’m not exaggerating when I say that in certain parts of the ground the “Kiwi fans” out numbered the Stormers fans fairly comfortably. (And it didn’t take a genius to figure out that not many of them were from the Canterbury region).

There surely can’t be much joy found from hanging on to so much bitterness?

On the flip side I remember watching the Boks play the Fatties at Twickenham a few years back and being completely dumbstruck by a number of Bok “fans” who were waving the old flag about, in an attempt I assume to make some kind of statement about their dissatisfaction with the state of SA rugby.
They failed miserably and just came off looking like a bunch of ignorant goons.

I genuinely don’t understand the thought process here, or maybe I should say the lack of a thought process?

Blah, blah, blah….

Anyways, time to get off of my soap box now I suppose, but first I must mention that I’m very much looking forward to seeing my current “man crush” Israel Dagg in full flight this weekend. The kid has some crazy skills.
It really is quite amazing when you consider the amount of depth the Kiwis have at the moment, especially in the backline.

Add to that McCaw, Read, Sonny Bill, Fruen and hopefully Carter at some stage and we’re all set for a cracking game.

I’ll be shouting for the Stormers 100%.

A picture of Gio Aplon...because he's a genius.

It’s all going 2003-style pear-shaped again

Oh dear.  This is starting to seem all too familiar.

The Bulls got themselves a “to nothing” ass-whooping in Christchurch. The Cheetahs turned up empty handed after a brave but outgunned performance in Kiwiland.  The Stormers looked inept and brainless throughout their match against the Reds. The only SA win of the weekend came from an SA vs SA encounter which nobody from this site could bear to watch.  The Lions and the Cheetahs are firmly dwelling in the basement of the combined Super Rugby log.  I can hear Maroon 5 playing in the background, wait a second… is this 2003?

Make it stop... I can't relive 2003. Please no. The horror... the horror...

Ladies and gents, it’s all going pear-shaped again. And when I say pear-shaped, I don’t mean the kind of “some forgot to record Curb Your Enthusiam” style pear-shaped.  I am talking Nickelback on the radio and Rudolph Straeuli in the Bok coaching blazer kind of pear-shaped.

According to Wikipedia, 2003 was South African rugby’s “lowest point in history”. I had to rely on Wikipedia for this fact, because after 2003’s rugby season I had a medical procedure done to have all my Springbok memories of 2003 erased.  Sh*t.

This is starting to feel very scary in a world cup year.  Maybe I am over-reacting.  But  the performances were dismal this weekend and not the kind of stuff that fills you with hope that having skottle braais at 4 am in the morning will be worth it come World Cup time.

Even the most optimistic Bulls fan would have planned a visit to the optometrist rather than face the music of watching his team play away at Christchurch.  Geez… it was still the 1990s when any Saffer fan last had the courage to watch his team playing away at Christchurch.  And yes, we all expect the Cheetahs to lose overseas (it’s a bit of a rite of passage, like watching the Cubs getting blown out of the post-season or having your matric dance end in tears after you discover Southern Comfort); but even Big Daddy Rugby didn’t expect the load of tripe dished up by the Stormers at Newlands.

Would somebody tell the Stormers that if you launch fifteen up and unders in a row on the Red’s back three and they punishing you each time that it’s probably time to stop kicking the ball away? On Saturday it seemed that Allister Coetzee had taken leave of absence and the top South African team was being coached by Field Marshall Hague from Blackadder Season 4.

Big Daddy is sounding the alarm bells.  We had better get this train wreck sorted out in a hurry. There is too much talent in South African rugby for us to have a repeat of 2003.

Place your bets, how will the Stormers choke in 2011?

So we’re 6 weeks into the Super 15, the Stormers are undefeated and top of both the South African conference and the combined Super 15 log. On paper they are in prime position to take their first Super rugby title.  In reality, we know the ending to the script, so this leaves only the big question:

How will the Stormers find a way to pull this season out the snatches of victory, stuff it in the kitchen sink and choke it with all the enthusiasm and determination of a Proteas cricket player?

Since we know the Stormers are NEVER going to win the title this year, shall we sketch out a few scenarios for how they could creatively find a way to butcher yet another promising start to the season?  I see a few possibilities:

  • They cruise through to a home semi against a minnow Kiwi team only to derail things internally with a row over pay and whether or not Brok Harris is entitled to wear pink boots in the new Axe Deodorant commercial.
  • Jacque Fourie gets an injury niggle thereby rendering the Stormers backline about as penetrative and threatening as Hans Solo frozen in carbonite.
  • Peter Grant forgets his finals BMT in the changing room and goes zero for ten at Loftus.
  • A Stormers playoff spot is dependent on only needing to win a derby against a weaker home union like the Lions or Cheetahs. It’s in the bag until their up-until-then winless opponents happen to choose that day to play the game of their lives, knocking the Stormers out of the competition and injuring Schalk Burger in the process.
  • Naqelevuki makes a surprise return to the Stormers squad, is rushed into the finals and knocks the ball on while attempting to score the winning try before tackling Mark Lawrence to ensure a red card send off back to Fiji.

Oh Stormers, how will you break our hearts this year?

Yowzer: Stormers rage against the dying of the SA light

On a weekend where another South African sporting team – whose name shall not be mentioned – cut out the hearts of South Africans, spat on them and then trampled them into the subcontinent dirt, I headed off to Newlands to watch the Stormers v Force game with low spirits, low expectations and in a foul mood all around.

51-17. Yowzer, that is brutal no matter how the Australian press might try to spin their development phase storyline. Some of the teams from the land of beer and suntan lotion are dishing up absolute tripe this season.  After Jacque Fourie crashed over in the first few minutes it was evident that the Force would do well to keep the score down. The Stormers were outmuscling them, out smashing them and dominating all facets of play – including most stylish haircuts. It looked like men against boys out there. Well with one exception: Bryan Habana.

The Stormers raged against the dying of the light on an otherwise bleak and merciless weekend for SA sport.

Habana continued his miserable 2011 form this weekend. He looked genuinely frightened of the ball at various points in the game. It reminded me of those old under-10 rugby days where you had that one kid in the team who stayed inside your own 22 hoping and praying all game long that no-one would launch any up and unders in his  general direction.

Still, the Stormers did what was asked of them to try and make up for the dismal misery that dared called itself a sporting weekend. For that they get a hat-tip from Big Daddy Rugby, a little wink and a drink on the house.

As for the team whose name shall not be mentioned – they best not show up in my neck of the woods with any cheeky smiles.

Stormers’ fans bringing their middle fingers to office on Monday

If  you are a Stormers fan, Saturday night was a sweet comfort for last year’s disappointing Super 14 final.  Not only did the Stormer’s end seven lean years since their last win in Pretoria and not only was the winning try scored by a former Bulls player, but best of all – in their 23-13 win the Stormers front row ate the Blue Bulls at scrum time.

It was an awkward stony silence in which these two Bulls fans drove home from Loftus on Saturday evening.

It was an awkward stony silence in which these two Bulls fans drove home from Loftus on Saturday evening.

For those who are fans of Stormer’s scrumming (few of them that there are) this was the equivalent of tuning into old school  eTV Saturday night adult programming. Witnessing a front row from the Cape monstering the Blue Bulls pack at scrum time was pure joy. It’s not often you see the Bulls give up tightheads on their own scrum feed, it’s rarer still to see them pushed backward faster than a Middle East dictator.

Bryan Habana had a mixed night, copping it from both the Bulls and the Stormers supporters as for most of the match his ball handling skills looked like an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin trying to hold onto a slippery eel covered in oil. Nevertheless he put on his rarely seen burners at just the right time to zip past Bjorn Basson on his way to scoring the winning try for the men from the Cape.  I was half expecting/half hoping to see him give the Andrew Merhtens’ Loftus salute of a middle finger victory lap.

There’s going to be a different vibe across the Republic on Monday morning. A few Capies will be swaggering into office and there might be a few sheepish Bulls fan who will be wishing they could take back their Friday afternoon taunts. I can imagine a few offices around the country in which Cape Townians will be bringing their middle finger to the office for the Monday morning coffee routine.

Player Profile: Brok “Twinkletoes” Harris

With a name that evokes images of metrosexual male models or WWE superstars, you might expect to find WP and Stormers rugby player, Brok Harris in the back line rather than in the tight five up with the grunts. And you’d be right. Despite the fact that Brok is selected to play in the tight five, the backline is exactly where you will find this burly fellow showcasing his sensational silky skills.

 

Brok Harris demonstrating his patented reverse spin torpedo pass. His slippery skills are usually on display in the backs when he is most needed up front at ruck time.

In his mind his selection as part of the tight five is nominal or “symbolic” only – his true calling is to run with the show ponies in the back line.

Wherever there is a ruck that needs a forward to clear it, or wherever a loose maul needs some muscle to be added it to it, Brok can be found far away from where he needs to be, instead preferring to spend his time at “first receiver” in the key playmaker position for the Stormers.

Usually this requires Brok to insert himself between scrumhalf and flyhalf (no small feat when the scrummie in picture is Ricky Januarie) and to take possession of the pill squandering a three man overlap on his outside.

Never one to be discouraged by repeated failure, when the next ruck is formed, he quickly finds his place out where he imagines he is most needed – in space with room to burn.

As to his abilities as a scrummager and at ruck and maul, Stormers fans will never know how he stacks up as a tight forward.   But as to his true calling, he yearns, nay aches to hear Hugh Bladen calling his name as “the big fella crossing the whitewash”.

Allister Coetzee gets a rough deal

If you live in Cape Town you’ve probably been subjected to the intolerable whinging this week on radio stations and newspapers about the fact that the Stormers have gone two games at home without scoring a try. I am exempting Supersport from this old media smackdown, only through ignorance – I’ve been unwilling to suffer through the tripe that Supersport dishes up as post match “expert opinion” this year. One can only imagine Kobus Wiese and Bobby Skinstad making frequent mention of the phrases “who wanted it the most out there” and “a lack of passion”.

Well as a moderately loyal and appropriately jaded Stormers supporter I will not stand for the media bashing a coach who has gone three matches undefeated. What do these journos want? A bloody primary school game where everyone in the team gets to score a try so as not to feel left out? A 55-50 humdinger?

People seem to forget that try-fests devalue the significance of moments of brilliance. This the reason why no-one gives a crap about the NBA. It is boring as hell to watch a team score at one end followed by the opposing team scoring at the other end ten seconds later (please don’t point out the success of T20 cricket – I can’t explain it either).

Poor old Allister Coetzee is merely grinding home the lesson we all should have learned in our first year of rugby. Namely, that a win is a win is a win. And win ugly if you have to (for the moment let’s leave out that second SA rugby rule, i.e. if you can’t win the game, at least win the fight). The Stormers have won ugly and Coetzee deserves praise for drawing blood out of stones in his first three matches.

My advice to Allister is to shrug off the media criticism and start doing your best Jack Nicholson impersonation for the next time you are in front of a mic. I’d love to see Allister channeling Jack in A Few Good Men the next time he is on Boots and All:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very sporting victories I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a rugby ball and get on the field. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!

The Tao of Kitch Christie

Kitch Christie, who coached a ragtag Bok team in the mid 1990s will always be remembered as a legend in Springbok history.  He  was the only modern Bok coach to retire undefeated, he maintained a 100% win record which included the 1995 World Cup.  This tale of an encounter between a young Stormers coach and the sage Kitch Christie, comes to us from Chuang Tzu, who famously coached the Wu Wei sevens rugby team under the Chou dynasty.

Allister Coetzee spoke to Kitch Christie saying “I have a big tree, which people call useless. Its trunk is so knotted, no carpenter could work on it, while its branches are too twisted to use a square or a compass upon. So although it is close to the road, no carpenter would look at it. Now Kitch your words are like this, too big and no use, therefore everyone ignores them.”

Kitch Christie replied, “Allister, have you never seen a wild cat or a weasel?. It lies there crouching and waiting, east and west it leaps out not afraid of going high or low, until it is caught in a trap and dies in a net. Yet again there is the yak, vast like a cloud in heaven. It is big, but cannot use this fact to catch rats. Now you Allister, have a large tree and don’t know how to use it, so why not plant it in the middle of nowhere, where you can go to wander or fall asleep under its shade? No axe under heaven will attack it, nor shorten its days, for something useless will never be disturbed.”

Theres a lesson in there somewhere for the Stormers this weekend.

Stormers Flyhalf Dilemma

The return this week of former Stormers flyhalf Peter Grant from Japan may have left tighthead prop Brok Harris’ dream of filling the number 10 jersey in tatters.

Tighthead prop Brok Harris regathering one of his fumbled "chipkicks"

The Stormers had been working hard in the pre-season on perfecting their trademark backline “strategy” of ignoring the fact that they have the best centres in the country and instead ensuring that all quality backline ball is given immediately to one of their props standing in the first receiver position whose task it is then to do one of the following:

a) take it on the crash before needlessly coughing up the pill,
b) do the “hard yards” by immediately falling to their knees, or
c) impersonate a “deer in the headlights”.

Word from the training ground is that Brok had spent most of his 2010 salary on a collection of Johnny Wilkinson “the art of flyhalf play” DVDs. News that pending his fitness, Peter Grant will be ushered straight into the starting line up must come as a disappointment to the big fellow Brok who was looking to make the no 10 jersey all his own. Rest assured though, whenever the big men are needed at the breakdown, Brok will be found popping up in the backline to “show those backs a thing or two.”