The Stormers' passionless performance against the Lions was an insult to their fans and confirmed that they won't win the competition this year, writes MARK KEOHANE.
The Stormers, in recent seasons, have underachieved. In the past five years they’ve had squads good enough to win the tournament. But they’ve imploded in the big moments and lost two home semi-finals. They also lost an away final to the Bulls.
It has been frustrating watching the Stormers promise so much and deliver so little.
I’ve been harsh on them in the past because the expectation has been that they were good enough to win the competition. This season there shouldn’t be such a frustration because the Stormers, as a squad, don’t have championship credentials.
I wrote it before their first game and their performance against the Lions at Ellis Park was that of a team with no hope of winning the competition.
Stormers coach Allistair Coetzee spoke glowingly of the pre-season and of the hunger and desire of his squad to go all the way in 2014. Coetzee said before their tournament opener against the Lions that it had been the best pre-season he could remember.
The Stormers played two warm-up games, edging the Bulls in the last minute and hammering the Kings. The Lions, by contrast, sneaked past the Kings. It again illustrates how meaningless the results column is when it comes to pre-season hit outs.
Coetzee, as a coach, won’t be able to inspire what is a limited squad. The Stormers every season talk one heck of a game, especially their coaching staff. The return on the field has never been as bullish.
The Stormers have a handful of quality individuals, but as a unit it’s a pretty average outfit.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers labelled the performance against the Lions a disgrace and said harsh words had been spoken within the squad. What has to concern every Stormers supporter is that the captain has felt it necessary to publicly talk of ‘lack of desire, passion and pride in the jersey’ after just one match.
The Stormers, in the history of the tournament, have the most impressive and consistent support base. Crowd attendance is always in the mid-30,000. The loyal support base gets no reward in Super Rugby and cling onto the occasional Currie Cup success when the Stormers play as Western Province. The Stormers, as a franchise, want for nothing but they also give their fans nothing.
I’ve picked them to beat the Hurricanes at Newlands on Friday evening – and it has more to do with a belief that there will be some sort of desperation and a greater urgency to win at home.
The Lions match and De Villiers’s post-match talk about the manner of defeat only seems to confirm a belief that while they may win on Friday night they will offer nothing by way of play-off ambition.
Any team can be off their game in the season opener but no team should lack passion and desire in the first game of the season.
That’s simply being insulting to their fan base and to each other.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images