The Stormers enigma



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Two rounds into Super 14, and with two defeats already inflicted, the Stormers look to Peter Grant for momentum in a fast disintegrating campaign.

The Stormers began the year upbeat. After a Currie Cup that saw them play to a traditionally exciting Western Province pattern, the buzz was a side that could play the fast and expansive brand of rugby the Stormers have long been capable of, yet have never delivered.

But the Stormers have quickly learnt that the brand of rugby they are eager to play is impossible without the essential fundamentals of the game – running forwards, running fast, and crossing the advantage line.

Peter Grant is the new pivot, who, after returning from injury, has leap-frogged Brent Russell, assuming duties as the number ten with Naas Olivier dropping out completely.

Grant is no doubt feeling the pressure.

“It is so good being back in the side. I have been involved with the guys the whole way through but to get a run on the pitch is very exciting.

“But I am also nervous.

“I am coming in when the side is under pressure and the media has already begun to bill me as the one who is meant to turn it around.

“The problem is not about individuals. As Luke [Watson] has said, it’s about the team gelling and finding their rhythm.”

Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe said on Thursday that Grant has been selected for his ability to play a more direct brand of rugby.

Grant concurs that this is necessary, but does not see the direct pattern as being exclusive of the way the Stormers have always wanted to play.

“We started the year wanting to play expansive Western Province-style rugby. That is what the fans want to see, and that is how we want to play. We are, after all, entertainers.

“The Super 14 is a tough competition however. If things don’t go your way you can quickly find yourself way behind.

“And so far that has happened to us.

“Against the Cheetahs we were maybe trying to force things a bit and we started going backwards, while last week we struggled in the rain and just didn’t play in the right half.

“We need to settle down now and get some confidence playing things a bit more direct, bringing forwards into the game and getting our heads up.”

This pattern is not, to Grant, a departure from the original intent of the Stormers.

“When we play it directly, you often find the gaps open up and then you are able to run it a bit more.”

Grant, like Watson, is confident that the Stormers can turn it around, and that all it takes is for the side to click into gear.

“It could be a couple of phases, or one or two tries, but we just need to go forward and allow ourselves to suddenly gel and play the rugby we are capable of.”

Grant assures that with him in the line-up, there will not be a gross departure from the way they have been playing.

“All three fly-halves have been running with the team in training, I have also been running at 12, and it’s just a case of me getting the start. Brent, Naas and I are all good mates.

“I do feel sorry for Naas. He has been under enormous pressure, and it has been difficult for him. The problems have not been his fault so much.

“He has not really received ball on the front foot. When he does, he is a very dangerous player. I really enjoyed playing alongside him at twelve during the Curie Cup.”

Grant assures that the spirits are still high in the camp.

“We have a great unit this year, from the management to the players, we all get along really well and we have a great team spirit.

“We are looking forward to a better tour.”

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital

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