Bongi Mbonambi says that the Springbok-laden Stormers are determined to mark their final season at Newlands with a Vodacom Super Rugby title. JON CARDINELLI reports.
South African rugby – as Rassie Erasmus stated in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup final win in Yokohama – has to find a way to keep the national side at the top of the World Rugby rankings. The respective Super Rugby franchises will have a key part to play in this regard.
The Stormers will head into the new season with more World Cup-winners than any other South African team. As Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi told SARugbymag.co.za in an exclusive interview, the Cape side has more than one reason to expect a better run of results in 2020.
‘We all worked closely with Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber, Matt Proudfoot, Mzwandile Stick and so on last year. We all gained a lot in terms of rugby knowledge,’ Mbonambi said.
‘Now it’s time to pass that on to the Stormers coaches and players. We can’t keep that knowledge to ourselves.
‘There may be a few things that we picked up while in the Bok camp or at the World Cup itself. Perhaps we can implement that in our scrum or maul, for example, to make it an attacking weapon.’
Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, skipper Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Herschel Jantjies all featured in the 2019 World Cup final against England, while Damian Willemse was among the non-playing reserves.
Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts and Bok fullback Dillyn Leyds will also feature for the Stormers. When one scans through the list of names listed above – and considers the number of promising youngsters at the franchise – one understands why the Cape franchise is being talked up as South Africa’s best shot at a Super Rugby title.
It’s not uncommon for the Stormers to be overhyped in the preseason, though. Their recent record, of course, suggests that they have everything to prove.
The Stormers failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2019. They finished at the bottom of the conference for the second-straight season.
That said, Mbonambi hopes that the team will harness the energy and momentum created by the World Cup success in Japan and make 2020 a season to remember.
‘We’re not just aiming for the playoffs – we want to win the tournament this year,’ the Bok hooker stated emphatically.
‘The more we talk about that goal, the more we will believe that it’s possible on the field. It’s a big year for the team and the franchise.’
The Stormers will play their home games at Cape Town Stadium from 2021 onwards. The coming season represents a final opportunity to run out at Newlands and senior statesmen like Mbonambi are determined to make it count.
‘We recently got together with [former Bok and Stormers captain] Corne Krige and a couple of the players who were part of that famous Men in Black team in 1999. The memories that they shared with us about playing for that team and especially at Newlands were very special.
‘The amount of running and physical work that we’ve done over the past few weeks… it feels like we have been prepping for this opening clash [against the Hurricanes at Newlands on Saturday] in particular. We’ve been talking about it a lot.
‘This is our last season at Newlands and we really want to make it a memorable one, not just for ourselves but for the fans as well. It would mean a great deal to leave Newlands on a high note.’
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