Saving the Stormers

By: Sarah Boomgaard

We’ve watched the Stormers struggle in the opening weeks of Super Rugby. Consequently we’ve seen a substantial amount of criticism from fans and the media – many of whom are calling for management to give the coaching staff the boot. But before Allister Coetzee and his men are shown the door, some perspective is needed.

The Stormers have suffered a number of injuries including the likes of Juan de Jongh, Rynhardt Elstadt, De Kock Steenkamp and Scarra Ntubeni. While these players are relatively young, they have added physicality and innovation – even as youngsters – to the Stormers’ game plan. Perhaps this has added to the team’s troubles. But is it the root cause of the Stormers’ tragic log standing? No.

What is more alarming is not the fact that the Stormers have suffered so many defeats at such an early stage of the competition, but the manner in which they have earned them. The Stormers have played with no vigour, no passion and seemingly, no inspiration. The Stormers are infamous for their lack of attacking capabilities but this year we saw their previously rock solid defence crumble. Is this a fault on a coaching level or does the problem lie with the players? Barring a few exceptions, due to injuries and a handful of players who have sought to continue their careers elsewhere, this is more or less the same Stormers team we’ve become accustomed to. It’s the same coaching staff, applying the same previously successful techniques. So what’s no longer working?

It seems that too many players have forgotten that wearing the Stormers jersey – or any team’s jersey for that matter – is a privilege and never a right. Regardless of whether you are playing your first or your hundredth Super Rugby match, it is your honour to play for the team and you are entitled to nothing. Senior players who believe that they have paid their dues and believe that they have earned the right to their position in the team are nothing but detrimental to the squad’s success. Unfortunately there are a few big heads belonging to big “rugby families” floating around the Stormers squad, who are adamant on stagnating the Stormers’ talent pool. These individuals need to deflate their egos, and perhaps their pay checks, or else they need to find other teams who are willing to put up with them. Senior players are not merely players; they are mentors to the younger members of the squad. Should a senior player be selfish enough to not accept this additional role, there should not be a space for him in the team. When mentored correctly, youngsters will receive advice from veterans, not only making them better players but creating cohesion within the team that we are just not seeing from the Stormers.

Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) has the privilege of being able to pluck talented youngsters from promising local rugby clubs such as UCT, who have enjoyed a successful Varsity Cup campaign, and Maties Rugby, one of the largest rugby clubs in the world. But WPRU is squandering its resources. Not enough young players that come through the ranks make it to Super Rugby level and the blame sits squarely on the union’s shoulders.

Each year we witness an exodus of players who have either been plucked at U19 or U21 level by other franchises or who have gone on to represent the Stormers who get fed up and bail. We have heard too many stories of young players who were either promised contracts or starting positions only to have WPRU renege on those promises. Management should not make promises that they have no intention to fulfill.

Transparency is key to creating trust amongst management and players. If a player is only third in line to receive a contract or will be playing the majority of his rugby off the bench then he has the right to know. Not only does it give the individual an opportunity to either improve his game or make alternative arrangements but it lets him know exactly where he stands. Every year fans ask why WPRU lose so many players and why players just can’t seem to stay loyal to the union. It’s simple: it’s impossible to be loyal to people you cannot trust.

WPRU in its entirety needs a makeover; they are in desperate need of innovation. They need somebody ruthless who can set personal feelings aside and weed out the problematic individuals starting from CEO, Rob Wagner, right down to the youngest player. They need fresh eyes to give perspective, they need people who are determined to restoring integrity to a once a great union. They need to rid themselves of men in suits who are more concerned with filling their wallets than their trophy cabinet. Does that include Coetzee? Possibly. But the problems at the Stormers run much deeper than their coach and saving their union is going to take a lot more hiring and firing. They may need a few years to rebuild but a powerful skyscraper is far better than a rickety Wendy house. They have the potential, they just need to trust and invest in it.

New blog post coming soon!

Hello all

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written something that I have wanted to publish and that I have felt was worth publishing. I have something that I am very excited to share. It may not be a popular opinion, but I feel it’s one that needs to be expressed. As soon as all the kinks have been ironed out, I’ll post it as soon as possible.  

Seeing as it has been such a long time, I have included a little preview  that will hopefully get you as excited as I am. Enjoy! 

The Stormers are infamous for their lack of attacking capabilities but this year we saw their previously rock solid defence crumble. Is this a fault on a coaching level or does the problem lie with the players? 

- Saving The Stormers, by Sarah Boomgaard

Less is more

Super_Rugby_Main_CMYK_LOGOBy: Sarah Boomgaard 

Too much of a good thing is bad for you – the current Super Rugby set up is proof of this. There is just too much rugby being played and the players and their fans are suffering.

The duration of the rugby season in the Southern Hemisphere has increased quite radically over the last decade. Subsequently we have seen an increase in injuries and the number of players taking their careers north. The shorter season and the bulging bank balances that the north offers made the migration appealing to older players looking to wind down their careers. What is more disturbing is the number of young players joining the northern exodus. Players of a lower age bracket have been enticed and have made the move north, such as Francois Louw and Joe Pietersen. Another interesting trend, sparked by Peter Grant’s contract with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan, offers the best of both worlds for players wanting to play Super Rugby but opting to not endure the rest of the Southern Hemisphere’s drawn out rugby season.

The top South African players, on average, will only receive five to six weeks of rest per year. After their Super Rugby season – depending on whether their team has made the playoff stages or not – players receive a week’s rest before the Currie Cup tournament is in full swing.  Super Rugby is arguably one of the most difficult tournaments in the world that is below test level, due to its intensity and its long duration – one week is not enough to recover from this brutal tournament. Teams who reach the playoff stages of the Currie Cup receive two to three weeks off before Super Rugby preseason training starts, with an additional two weeks off in December.

Over the last two years, the amount of injuries suffered by South African players has increased from 12 – 23% across the various franchises. Injury rates and the seriousness thereof will continue to rise if we keep on pushing our players beyond their limits. Professor Tim Noakes and his team have conducted studies that prove the link between fatigue and injury. Noakes argues that two months of solid rest (with no training) and three months of preseason training should prelude a seven-month season. A measly week or two off here and there is not enough. We are overplaying our players, subsequently shortening their careers

Francois Louw

Admittedly, I found the Northern Hemisphere schedule confusing and somewhat frustrating at first – since they participate in two tournaments which overlap – I now see benefits. Amongst South Africans reaping the benefits is ex-Stormer, Francois Louw who is currently playing for Bath. Bath wrapped up their season in early May and will play their next match on August 17th. This means that Louw had five weeks of uninterrupted rest before joining the Springboks for the Quadrangular tournament in June and a further two weeks rest thereafter.  While this does not equate to Noakes’ ideal, it is far more beneficial to what players, at the Stormers for example, are expected to endure.

Players are not the only ones suffering. Crowd attendance and even television viewership has experienced a decline. Even the most diehard supporters are losing interest in the long season and have found themselves watching fewer games, both live and on TV, than in recent years. It goes without saying that if crowd attendance plummets so will the franchise’s revenue.

The current season structure does not work. There are too many games and everybody is suffering, yet there is talk to add even more teams. If SANZAR is seriously considering this, they will have no choice but to adopt a pool structure similar to that of the World Cup or the Heineken Cup, or risk severe burnout from players and sheer boredom from the spectators.

The amount of games played throughout the year needs to be decreased dramatically or we shall see more players fleeing overseas in a desperate attempt to prolong their careers – and perhaps we may even see their fans go with them.

 

New article coming MONDAY!

Hi Guys

It has been six months since I’ve written something that I’ve wanted to publish. While I have written a few pieces this holiday, they didn’t seem to measure up to my Keep calm… and support the Kings! article. I was fortunate enough for it to appear as the winning article in SA Rugby magazine but the pressure was on to write something that would top that. However I think I’ve finally got something that will be able to compare to it.

So Monday, 22 July I will commemorate my return to varsity with a new article. It’s a topic that I’ve wanted to cover for months but I’ve added a new dimension which I am hoping will give it the edge it needs. The article will probably go up before lunch, so fight the Monday Blues during your lunch break and stop by ;)

A special thanks to Stormers wing, Gio Aplon and Bath Captain Francois Louw for their help with my research. However it must be noted, the article will not reflect their views in any way.

On a side note, best of luck to the Cheetahs for their playoff against the Brumbies! They’ve made South Africa proud and deserve our support, so let’s get behind them! 

 

Sarah

Keep calm… and support the Kings!

Southern-kings-logo-new-291x300By Sarah Boomgaard

Regardless of how they got there or who they forced out, South Africans should stop their whining and support the Southern Kings, particularly against Australian and New Zealand teams.

The number of South Africans calling the Kings and “embarrassment to South African Rugby” and willing the Kings to lose against the Western Force in their inaugural Super Rugby match was not only shocking but revolting. We have to be the only country in the world that wills our very own to lose.  It’s understandable that Lions supporters are not happy that their team was demoted but they should not blame the Kings for how SARU handled the situation.

The Kings are a part of Super Rugby now. It is already a daunting task when you are the new kids on the block and their mission is made that much more intimidating by the fact their country does not support them.  The Eastern Cape deserves a seat at the Super Rugby table and it’s about time South Africans recognise that.  Grey PE has produced some phenomenal rugby players and the region lost them to the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, etc. This would not have happened if there was a Super Rugby team in their home province.  Players like Sergeal Petersen, the teenager who scored two tried in the Kings’ first game, would not have stuck around if the Kings were not promised a piece of the Super Rugby pie.

South Africa is blessed with an abundance of rugby talent. The Kings will be yet another team to facilitate and showcase this. Another competitive and thriving rugby union will only be to the benefit of South African Rugby. But the Southern Kings are about more than just rugby, they have the power to transform the face of SA Rugby without the need for “quotas”. Their introduction to Super Rugby will allow the Eastern Cape to produce talented players of colour who could walk into any team around the world – this is the future of the Kings.

The critics are quick to point out that their win against the Force is just the beginning and I agree! This is just the start of the fantastic things we will come to see from the Southern Kings! It may not be today or tomorrow but the Southern Kings will become a force to be reckoned with.  

 

Walking the Talk

By: Sarah Boomgaard

The lack of transformation seems to be a chronic headache for Springbok selectors. However, one cannot simply select a player of colour to represent the national team if he isn’t good enough. The EP Kings were supposed to be the solution and provide an abundance of quality black players eligible for Springbok selection. One would think that SARU would award the Kings every opportunity to achieve this goal but their lack of commitment to the Kings and transformation has never been more apparent.

EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson has been heavily criticized for the lack of black players that take to the field each week and even more so with each “white signing” that the Kings announce. But the stakes were heightened when the Kings were given one year to prove themselves in Super Rugby, forcing Watson’s hand. Rome was not built in a day and giving the Kings only a year to field a competitive Super Rugby team which is comprised mostly of non-white players is asking them to do just that. 

Their opponents argue that if the Kings don’t want to face a relegation situation all they have to do is avoid last place of the South African conference. The vast majority of teams that have been admitted finished into Super Rugby late, have finished last or have lingered somewhere in that region.  SARU has effectively signed the Kings’ death sentence. Not only would a poor overall performance fuel critics’ arguments, world class players are not willing to commit to a team who might not have a seat at the Super Rugby table in 2014.

The Kings needed at least three years to be able to build a team that meets South Africa’s transformation needs and can realistically compete in Super Rugby. To those asking, “What about the Lions?”  Tough. The Lions have had years to build a decent team but continuously claim to be “rebuilding”, they are one of the few (if not the only) teams who have the “honour” of saying that they’ve gone an entire season without a single victory and suspended the first coach to bring home a trophy in years.  If the Lions really wanted to play Super Rugby in 2013 that badly, they could have joined the Cheetahs to reform the Cats or piggybacked on the Bulls seeing as they are geographically the closest.

The Melbourne Rebels were allowed to sign as many as 11 foreign players in their debut season while SARU said the Kings would be limited to two like the already established South African franchises. If SARU insists on only guaranteeing the Kings one year in Super Rugby, common courtesy dictates that they at least afford the Kings the opportunity to field a world class team to attempt to avoid the wooden spoon. 

If SARU truly wants to see transformation to the extent that rugby is no longer regarded as a “white man’s sport” in SA, they need to step up and assist the Kings in every way possible. It doesn’t help to say “we need more players of colour” and then deny the Eastern Cape, where three quarters of the population is black,  a realistic chance to be competitive in Super Rugby.

Breaking the Stereotype

By: Sarah Boomgaard

Rugby has always been thought to be a “man’s” sport and the only reason a girl would ever bother to watch a match would be because she fancies one of the players. However more and more ladies are becoming passionate about the game and it has nothing to do with how “cute” the players are. The ladies who are mad about rugby are often thought to be quite manly themselves, and I have, on many occasions, been told that I don’t “look like the kind of girl who would like rugby.” The fact that people still think that only jocks or tomboys are the only girls who can appreciate the game is rather sad. So let me introduce you to a few of my fellow maul-loving, try-worshiping and tackle-admiring ladies who are adamant on breaking the stereotype.

Name? 

Jean-Mare Bruwer

 Who do you support? 

 Stormers

 Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m 23, currently studying towards my BBA Degree. Typical Scorpio. I go with the flow & sarcasm is my second language

How did you become involved with rugby? 

I was born into a rugby mad family. We had a suite on the Jan Pickard stand for quite some time, so Newlands pretty much became my second home.

Who’s your favourite player?  

Eben Etzebeth

 What’s your favourite part of the game? 

Whenever Gio Aplon darts down the touch line to score one of those magical tries.

 If you were appointed as the Springbok coach, what is the first thing that you would do?  

I would get rid of certain senior players who pasted their expiry date, and give the up and coming youngsters a chance to prove themselves on an international level. 

 

Name? 

Michelle McLeod 

Who do you support? 

 Staunch Stormers, WP and Springbok supporter

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I moved to SA in 1967 with my Folsom from England. I have been here 45 years and proudly south African. Turning 50 on 31 May. I have two sons who are 27 and 24.  Moms pride and joy. My dad played rugby league in England and when we moved here was not allowed to play union except socially. He coach my primary school team who went from bottom of log to top of log in 2 years.

How did you become involved with rugby? 

I went to my first fame at Newlands when I was 6 years old.  I have a crazy sister, Debbie who is passionate about rugby.  We don’t miss a home game and tend to travel to a few away games a year. Hubby and other males get left at home. Girls who love rugby only. 

Went to the RWC in 1999, 2007 and will be going to the 2015. Saving account started a year ago.  Also love 7′s and have been to George on numerous occasions as well as hong kong, Dubai and of course PE last year.   Love all forms of rugby.  Not crazy about women’s rugby.

Club Newlands is an awesome way for rugby people to meet.  We were one of the first members.  Love the club. 

Who’s your favourite player?  

So many. Currently I love Jean de Villiers.  Young Kitshoff and Eben  wow. Definitely future books. Joe Pietersen  sex on legs.  I love all our boys at Newlands. Steven Hunt is doing so well with the seven squad.  Ex WP under  21.  And of course Paul Delport who will stop any where in the world to greet us. Duane Vermeulen – so unlucky with injuries.  Great young man.  Schalk Burger – he could probably tell you about us!!!!!

What’s your favourite part of the game? 

Favorite part of the game-   Try time!!!  Full time! Social afterwards discussing and debating what had just happened!  Love to watch riming rugby.  When the ball swings and the boys support each other on the field and off!

If you were appointed as the Springbok coach, what is the first thing that you would do?  

Leave him alone for now.  We have to build a team for the next world cup. No old men….. They have retired.  Give youngster a chance and start to build squad with new young blood. We are going to win some and lose many in the building of a new squad,  I think the coach should be allowed to prove himself before I judge him.  Will discuss that point in a year!   

Name?  

Chrisna Coetzee (left)

Who do you support?  

Stormers, Province, Boks

Tell us about yourself? 

 I am a sports nut… Grew up in a sports crazy family, so watching any kind of sport is the way that we bond,   whether rugby, cricket, F1, golf, and even soccer; we generally have a good time watching!

How did you become involved with rugby?

My brother went to Paul Roos. (That’s almost) enough said. I have very vivid memories of going to the Makotter fields to watch his games. I am the only one, I am almost certain of this, who understands the rules, knows what is happening when the ref moves his arms in a certain way… It’s always fun explaining these things to guys and have them look at me like I’m an alien or something! They always seem to be so shocked that a girl would be able to understand the intricacies of rugby!

Who is your favourite player?

Bash- Peter Grant. He’s really talented, and I met him last year and he really does have the cutest dimples! ;)

What’s your favourite part of the game?

Everything, from the stats to the play by play before and after the game, the tactics and the action! I. Love. Rugby. That is all.  

If you were appointed as the Springbok coach, what is the first thing that you would do?

Go to parliament; tell them to butt out of sport… Or realistically, try to get more overseas players involved somehow.

Name?

Lea-Ann van der Merwe

Who do you support?

Sharks

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m 19 and a proud Matie Student. I grew up in Durbanville and have a younger brother who ironically doesn’t like rugby at all. I did lots of different sports growing up, including figure skating, gymnastics and netball. I’ve also been singing since I was 11. I would actually love to sing the national anthem for one of the Boks’ games! ;)

How did you become involved with rugby?

I grew up with boys, so I guess it was inevitable that I would grow up to love rugby.  When I was younger my friends and I used to toss the ball about a bit, but I never really had the patience to sit down and watch a full game. When the 2007 World Cup Final came around, I decided I couldn’t miss the game as South Africa was playing. I hadn’t really had anything to do with rugby in a couple of years, but the final was all it took to get me in front of my TV all weekend every weekend.

Who’s your favourite player?

Francois Steyn, Bismarck Du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Patrick Lambie.

 What’s your favourite part of the game?

Winning? (laughs) I guess the best part would be when we play an evenly-matched team. Yeah, it’s good to be able to say beforehand that you’re relatively sure you will win, but it gets a bit boring watching games against minnows. Watching a good running match where the ball is frequently spread to the wings is always exciting.

If you were appointed as the Springbok coach, what is the first thing that you would do?

I guess I would love to be able to share the way I see rugby with the national team. A big part of that is team work. You can have the best individual players on the planet but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a good team. So the first thing I would do would be to figure out the best way to make the best group of guys into an absolutely unbeatable team. If you have a group of guys who totally believe in each other and will bend over backwards for one another, you have guys that will play not just for themselves, but for the other 14 men on the field as well. 

Name?  

Raihaanah Jonson

Who do you support?  

Stormers, Western Province and the Springboks

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

I’m studying at UCT (a BSC), not very sure what I want to do with it yet . I don’t do sport anymore but I used to do karate, if I had the time I’d love to go back and do it. I have two siblings both older than me… We are a Stormers household J. I like any kind of music that speaks to me.

How did you become involved with rugby?  

I never was really interested in rugby. But then one day my friend took me to a game at Newlands. I immediately fell in love with the game and the Stormers. Ever since that first game at Newlands stadium, I’ve been a diehard Stormers fan.

Who’s your favourite player?  

Joe Pietersen and Peter Grant

What’s your favourite part of the game?

Definitely the unity you feel during the game. Especially at Newlands. I like the feeling of actually being part of a team. And of not just wanting our team to win all the time but also just wanting them (the players) to succeed.

If you were appointed as the Springbok coach, what is the first thing that you would do?  

I would make sure that players who are really doing well get chosen for the Springbok team. Bash for Boks!