‘Confident’ Stormers hit the road




The Stormers are still stuck at the bottom of the standings, but after recording their first win of the season and scoring their first try, it is with renewed “confidence” that they headed off on a five-match tour of Australasia on Saturday.

Having held on for a 21-16 win against the Chiefs at Newlands on Friday, to break their 2007 duck, Stormers captain Luke Watson said the side is looking forward to their long trek across the Indian Ocean.

The Stormers face the Highlanders in Dunedin next Saturday (24 February), before tackling the Hurricanes in Palmerston North, then head across the Tasman see for encounters with the Brumbies in Canberra and the Waratahs in Sydney, before trekking back across the Tasman to play the Crusaders in Christchurch – all on consecutive weekends.

Watson said it was vital that his team got a win under their belts before the trip to Australasia.

“I am very pleased, it was a very tough week and the past few weeks were disappointing for us,” he said of the team’s first win – after having lost their first two matches against the Cheetahs and Western Force.

“It was very important, before we headed off on tour, that we got some points on the board and got a victory under the belt.

“Now we’re really looking forward to the tour. It was a lot of character that we showed in the end [to hang on for the win against the Chiefs].

“This win will give us some confidence.

“It is going to be a long tour, but at the same time we’ve got an incredible team spirit.

“The guys actually enjoy touring and enjoy playing away from home. On top of that we’ve got a good travelling record. I feel it’s going to be an enjoyable tour and also a very tough tour.”

Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe also expressed his delight with the win, just before the long, arduous trip to Australasia.

“Obviously I am very happy. As you all know we had a tough week. The most important thing is we believed in each other. I think that showed [against the Chiefs],” he said.

“The guys really showed a lot of character. We had a big scare before the game. Right at the end of the warm-up Conrad Jantjes pulled a quad muscle. So we had to put Brent Russell in at fullback and he hasn’t trained there all week.

“We had to get Gio Aplon from the presidents box to put his kit on and come sit on the bench.

Watson also came out in support of the coaching staff, who had been under fire from the fickle Cape media – with calls for their heads.

“Kobus [van der Merwe] and Jerome [Paarwater, forwards coach] have come in for a lot of flak over the past week, but they’ve been good in taking the pressure away from the players,” Watson said.

“You can’t go anywhere without every man and his dog having a go at you and they took the brunt of it on behalf of the players.”

The coach lauded Peter Grant, who started his first game for the Stormers this season at fly-half.

“Absolutely outstanding. He took the ball to the gain line very nicely and his decision-making was superb.

“And then his defence – I thought that channel between him, Corn’ and Jean held out all night long.”

The coach also had praise for scrum-half JP Joubert, who started for the Stormers for the first time.

“I think he has one of the best services in the game. He gets to the breakdowns quickly and just clears the ball.

“And in the second half when we brought Bolla on it was nice.”

Watson and Van der Merwe also came out in support of Springbok flank Schalk Burger, who was yet again yellow carded against the Chiefs.

“I thought that yellow card was really pedantic,” Van der Merwe said.

“It was the first maul that they had in our territory and the maul collapsed and he gave Schalk a yellow card.

“I’ve never seen it in the competition that for the first maul that’s been collapsed – the penalty was maybe justified yes, but to send a guy off with a yellow card for the first offence I thought that was a bit harsh on him.

“Schalk is always going to be a guy that gives away two or three penalties in a game, but if you look at the damage he does on the ground with stealing ball or slowing ball down it’s always going to be a 50/50 call for them [the referees].”

Watson said the players support Burger 100 percent.

“He wasn’t happy [with the yellow card],” the Stormers captain said of Burger.

“But it’s the nature of his game, he is always at the breakdowns and it is one of those calls. We still back Schalk Burger 100 percent. He’ll come back even tougher next week.”

Watson also praised Stormers veteran Breyton Paulse for his scintillating try out wide during the first half which kept the hosts in the contest.

It was the Stormers’ first try of the season.

“It was a matter of us getting some possession and getting our hands on the ball,” he said.

“We always knew we had the ability out wide. We have some real game-breakers and it was just a matter of getting the ball to them.”

The Stormers left for Australasia on Saturday morning.

Stormers touring squad:

Eddie Andrews, Gio Aplon, De Wet Barry, Andries Bekker, Schalk Brits, Gerrie Britz, Schalk Burger, Bolla Conradie, Jean De Villiers, Robbie Diack, Schalk Ferreira, Peter Grant, Brock Harris, Conrad Jantjes, JP Joubert, Tiaan Liebenberg, Justin Melck, JD Moller, Naas Olivier, Breyton Paulse, Brent Russell, Egon Seconds, Ross Skeate, Corne Uys, Francois Van Der Merwe, Luke Watson (c).

365 Digital

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