Highlanders coach Greg Cooper and captain Anton Oliver used their post-match press conference to offer some advice to the under-fire Stormers camp.
Speaking to the Cape media, and prompted by journalists still looking for answers for the Cape side’s underperformance, the obviously elated duo were happy to entertain the loaded questions.
‘Winning away from tour is very pleasing,’ Oliver tentatively started. ‘Winning away engenders a sense of team spirit, that’s what this tour has done for us. It’s bringing us closer together, so it’s very pleasing.’
When asked how two home losses out of three would affect the home team, Oliver was characteristically honest.
‘It’s hard on them. There’s a huge expectation to win at home, but as the tournament matures teams have shown that they’re getting better at playing away. If you’re in the Stormers position you have to forget the past and try not be weighed down by it.
‘You can get a roll on at home, and sometimes that is just assumed as a given. The Bulls had a huge roll last year and were always unstoppable. As a professional outfit you can’t be governed by stakeholders like fans. You have to put their expectations aside and rely on your coach and teammates. If you take on all those expectations it will sink you. You can’t take those all along.’
Cooper chipped in, recounting that his side have been in a similar position in the past,
‘A couple of years ago we started focusing on the process and not the outcome. We’ve gone through difficult patches, and focused on what we had to do. It’s easier said than done. We all read the papera, even though we say we don’t!’
Oliver would not be tempted to compare the Stormers’ current backline to previous versions, but did admit that the team was underperforming.
‘I’m not a back, so I’m not really qualified to comment on their backline. Two or three times they should have scored tonight. Just a couple of knock ons or mistakes ruined it. It’s just a matter of time before they click. We’re just happy we got under the radar before they do. They’ve just somehow got to find some belief.’
‘Kobus is a smart operator, there’s no doubt about that,’ Cooper concurred. ‘There’s a few key performers out, and analysing their performances, they should have beaten the Waratahs and the Brumbies. Now it’s all about self-belief.’
‘It would help if you guys cut them some slack,’ Oliver winked.
The Highlanders move to Port Elizabeth where they’ll be based ahead of their tour-ending encounter with the Bulls.