Stormers sink to laughable lows

And so when it was all done, Kobus van der Merwe’s response to the Stormers stumbles of the past five weeks was to subject them to sprints and a contact session. Haven’t we seen that somewhere before with Rudolf Straeuli and the Boks?

Herbert Pretorius of Die Burger quotes Van der Merwe at length as to how the coaching staff cracked the whip at training and then gave the players a fitness test, a hard contact session and sprints to complete the supposed humiliation. It was more a case of the coaching staff having cracked than one cracking the whip.

If Van der Merwe’s intention was to give the Stormers supporter comfort, he has failed. It has merely instilled a sense of acknowledgemnt that the coaching staff of Van der Merwe, Gary Gold, Hawies Fourie and Jerome Paarwater, don’t have the nous or blueprint to get a bunch of very talented rugby players to perform.

The coaches this season have been given carte blanche to do their job. And they have not got the results in the first six matches of the season.

One would have expected a decent response; something with a bit more science than the kind of ‘lets get them on the field and physically torture them to show them how upset we as coaches are’ coaching mentality that has come to the fore here.

“We started with fitness exercises, followed by a hard contact session and then concluded with two sets of 10 sprints of 120m,” Van der Merwe told Pretorius.

Questions have been asked of the players, who week in and week out have not performed. But, my goodness, questions need to be asked of a coaching staff who in week seven of the tournament are prepared to admit that the only way they felt they could change the attitude of these highly paid professionals was to put them through the mill of a physically demanding training session.

It is a bit like caning a kid and then expecting him to respond. In fact, it is a bit like caning a kid. Full stop. Did we not move beyond this archaic practise when Straeuli self-destructed with the 2003 Springboks?

“I had to confront them regarding a lack of self-discipline, intensity and the way in which they prepared for a game. Players walking to a lineout or kick-in and only starting to play after they have been told off in the changing room, simply don’t have the right attitude,” Van der Merwe told Die Burger. This after a pre-season camp, a few warm-up matches and six tournament matches!

Come on. It is ridiculous.

Van der Merwe and the Stormers support coaching staff also have to admit to themselves that they had the best possible draw of all the South African sides, with the exception of the Bulls, who have a similar draw.

They played all the so-called tougher Australasian sides at home and they play the weaker ones away from home. Ordinarily you could expect a half-decent Stormers team to beat the Force and Reds, while the Chiefs and Blues are definitely matches that can be won.

The Stormers, even allowing for their wretched home form, could come away with four wins, such is the indifferent form of the teams they play away from home. A more realistic assessment is that they will still get two wins (against the Farce and Rubble Reds) and it won’t have to do with the players changing their attitudes. It will be because the opposition is simply KAK.

To imply, as Van der Merwe has done in print, that the Cats and Sharks have the advantage of playing the weaker overseas teams at home and avoiding relegation, is ridiculous. Has he forgotten then that they had to play the best ones away from home?

If this is the type of rationale being presented to the players, no wonder the Stormers are one win from six, with no wins in five home matches.

Questions rightfully have been asked of the players and the coaching staff, but the kind of answers being given are more embarrassing than the questions that need to be asked of a squad with this player budget and international CV’s.

If the players aren’t up to it, the current coaching staff certainly aren’t equipped to deal with the pressures of the job.