Stormers do some ‘soul searching’




The Stormers players have not exactly covered themselves in glory this year and they still have four matches of an arduous five-week Australasian tour remaining.

After three defeats and an unconvincing win in their first four weeks of competition, the Stormers now have to take on top-flight teams like the Hurricanes (in Palmerston North), Brumbies (in Canberra – which requires a trip across the Tasman Sea), Waratahs (in Sydney) and Crusaders (in Christchurch – the return trip across the Tasman).

It is a tour from hell, considering what has gone before – especially if one considers the performance produced in the 35-24 loss to the Highlanders at the weekend.

But the players have taken ownership and admitted that need to raise the bar, so to speak.

Stormers utility back Brent Russell said the players know they have to “work harder” in the weeks to come to avoid tour whitewash.

“We had to do quite a bit of soul searching after the loss to the Highlanders,” Russell told this website in an interview from the team’s base in Wellington – where they are busy preparing for their encounter with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes, who are currently second on the standings after a Thomas Waldrom try in the dying seconds gave them a 11-10 win over the Brumbies, will host the Stormers at the unfamiliar (for teams outside New Zealand) FMG Stadium in Palmerston North on Saturday.

It is indeed a tall order for the under-performing Stormers, but Russell said the team is not ready to give up the fight.

According to the ‘Pocket Rocket’ the team is “working hard” on rectifying the problems that cost them the game against the Highlanders – although they feel an unfair ruling (an exceptionally short penalty advantage) by the referee contributed to swinging the momentum in the game.

“That was our first game on tour and we have another four to go,” Russell said. “It is a long tour and we can’t beat ourselves up about the loss [against the Highlanders]. We must put it behind us and look ahead to this week’s challenge.”

The utility back felt that the mistakes made against the Highlanders can be easily rectified.

“We have to work harder [against the Hurricanes] than we did [last] Saturday.

“We made some really silly mistakes … like the incident where a pass went astray between Bolla [Conradie, the scrum-half] and myself on the tryline. [It gave the Highlanders one two very soft tries].

“We must eliminate those mistakes and do the basics better.

“We’ve still got a very good team spirit and must just win a few more games,” he added.

Russell also dismissed the notion that he is unhappy with not being given game time at fly-half, as was suggested in the pre-season build-up.

He said he buys into the team structure and it doesn’t matter where he plays.

“It is a lot bigger than just one position,” he said when asked about his own game.

“I always knew I was not going to play just at fly-half. In fact I was never promised the No.10 jersey.

“There were also some injuries and I understand why I had to play wing.

“I’m still very happy to be here at the Stormers and I still feel that the change [to have moved from the Sharks to the Stormers] was a good move for me. Sometimes you just need a change to refresh your career and this change was good for me … a new challenge,” he said.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital 

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