• Stormers must lay down marker

    The Stormers will need a collective squad effort if they are to challenge for the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby title, writes former Bok hooker JAMES DALTON.

    Steven Kitshoff has been vocal in his belief that the Stormers can dominate the Hurricanes up front through their scrum and set piece, and so hopefully nullify their backs. Looking at the pedigree of player in the Stormers pack, yes, they should.

    But you’re only as good as your last performance, and while it was a warm-up match, the Stormers pack was not great against a relatively inexperienced Sharks one at SuperHero Sunday.

    Kitshoff made the good point, too, that while confidence is high returning as World Cup winners, ‘rugby is a funny game, that can bring you back down to earth very quickly’. Hopefully this point is noted by the rest of the Springboks within the Stormers squad, who in 2020 will be judged on what they do for their franchise and not what they did for the Springboks last year.

    Aside from the notable losses of Damian De Allende and Eben Etzebeth – who were colossal for the Springboks’ World Cup cause – and a few incoming and outgoing periphery players, the Stormers side remains relatively unchanged from the one that came 10th last year.

    So, what makes this year different?

    The appointment of Dobbo [John Dobson] as coach is a positive start. He brings a great edge, brilliant people skills and will hopefully ensure that each player plays his role.

    And this is perhaps the key in 2020: that every individual plays his role to the fullest. Not just the six Springboks of 2019, nor just the players who missed out on World Cup selection last year.

    For the Stormers to go the full way, it needs be a collective squad effort. And the momentum brought back by the World Cup-winning Springboks needs to be maintained and used as a boost for the Super Rugby Campaign.

    What the World Cup did do, hopefully, is break down the strange mental weakness South Africans seem to have towards New Zealand teams. If individuals in a green jersey have the capacity to be world beaters, running out in blue shouldn’t change that. And I hope that that mentality rubs off on to the surrounding players.

    The Stormers, historically, have seen success against the Canes, winning 11 of the 18 matches played. Their last three, however, have been losses.

    This Saturday provides the perfect opportunity to turn that around. The forwards, with four of the 2019 Springbok front row, captain Siya Kolisi and three-time SA Rugby Player of the year 2019 Pieter-Steph Du Toit, should be going out and dominating up front to apply the kind of pressure Kitshoff believes they can.

    The Stormers then do have the backs that can execute on a proper platform. With the Cape side starting their campaign with five out of six matches at home, they need to be emphatic in their first outing on Saturday, and lay down the marker of their capabilities.

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    Photo: Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images

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    James Dalton