Stormers must front issues

Someone must take responsibility for the Stormers' poor performances, says MARK KEOHANE in his Business Day column.

There will be a change in the Stormers management this week. Whatever the change, in whatever guise, it cannot come sooner.

Hopefully, with this change will come some form of enterprise and with a new approach there may even be some reward for the battling Super Rugby franchise.

It’s been awful to watch the Stormers play in 2013 and 2014. What’s been even more embarrassing has been listening to the squad’s leadership after every defeat.

I know Stormers and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is bound by that unwritten code of losing captains to say everything except what he actually thinks. He is also bound by that other unwritten code: to give unfailing support to the current coaching staff, at least publicly.

It’s been a mess for too long in Stormers rugby and a greater investment in the written code of fronting the issues and dealing with them would have better served the Stormers over the past 18 months.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is quoted every weekend as saying he couldn’t ask for a greater effort from his team. De Villiers’s standard quote is that the team learns from mistakes – the same mistakes they make every weekend.

Someone has to take responsibility for the selections or for the mistakes. If the coach believes the players can’t do any more, then he is either picking the wrong players or not equipping them with the necessary game plan to turn defeat into victory. If the coach is convinced the players are the right ones and that the game plan is the right one then he must go because results tell you the selections and strategy are questionable.

To put out press releases emphasising the spirit of the squad, the desperate nature of defeat and an increasing injury list should only have added to the angst of the Stormers supporters.

This is a squad that has come second for so long now that those who make up the leadership are actually finding comfort in the degree of defeat.

The word coming from within is that the Stormers are stuffed and that the leadership doesn’t know how to get it right. The greatest indication of this was Coetzee’s quote in an official press release applauding the performance against the Reds in Brisbane. Coetzee asked how many teams would have been able to come from 22-10 down against the Reds in Brisbane to be in a position to win the game?

Yup, I too felt great sympathy for the coach when I read that paragraph. We are talking a Reds team that had just arrived back from South Africa after two defeats and a Reds team that had taken a beating from the Waratahs less than a month ago.

It got even worse when the coach reflected on the nature of the defeats in Australia and New Zealand and said two bonus points for losing within seven points showed how different the tour could have been. This is a tournament in which one point more is good enough and one point less isn’t. The Stormers, in the last two Super Rugby seasons, have too often been the side getting the lesser of the points.

Coetzee knows that a coach is only as good as his results. It is the nature of the profession and it’s not personal. He should have gone some time ago and because he can’t accept there is anything wrong, it unfortunately will end messy.

Elsewhere in South Africa, the Super Rugby landscape looks healthier. The Sharks have benefited from a competition draw of five home games in six starts. They have played well to win all five home matches because conditions in Durban at this time of the year are never easy. Many a Sharks campaign has stumbled despite a favourable home draw to start the competition.

The Sharks haven’t got lucky in any of the their wins. They’ve been dominant in all the home success and it’s been down to their approach, in attitude and in adhering to a game plan that focused on finding a winning habit.

The Sharks have played intelligent rugby. They have been the contrast of the Stormers and they have benefited from a change in leadership. The Stormers under Coetzee and his cohorts have got stale and the results and manner of performance reflect the stagnation.

The Stormers will only be in crisis if the change this week is not emphatic. The good news for Stormers fans is that, I am told it, will be emphatic. If so, expect a few more smiles to come out of Cape Town’s rugby support base in 2014, if not necessarily this weekend against the Waratahs.

Stormers are no quick fix, says Jon Cardinelli

Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images