‘We’ve achieved nothing yet’

The Stormers aren’t buying into the hype that they’re overwhelming favoruites to beat the Lions this Saturday.

First they won the Tri-Series, and then their second trophy in last week’s hammering of Boland at the new Cape Town Stadium. Hell, they even won the Newlands challenge when they beat the Cape Cobras in a cricket match. There’s a buzz around the Stormers which isn’t unbelievable. Three trophies in the space of a month. Give it up for the boys in blue.

Believe the marketing hype, and you’re bound to believe the Stormers are destined for greater things in 2010. The more educated Cape supporter will tell you to be careful. They’ll remind you that neither the Stormers nor WP have won a big competition since 2001.

If you can’t find a Stormers supporter willing to admit to their side’s past failings, ask one of the thousands of Bulls or Sharks fans residing in Cape Town. They’ll tell you that when it comes to the Super 14, the Stormers are pre-season champs and in-season chumps.

Nobody is more aware of this perception than Allister Coetzee, the new Stormers head coach. The media have gone huge with the pre-season success, but Coetzee and his captain Schalk Burger have worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the squad doesn’t become windgat. It’s this kind of attitude that’s got them into trouble before, and it’s why Coetzee laughed off talk that Saturday’s match against the Lions represents a soft start.

‘Talk is cheap – that’s the only message to my players in preparation for Saturday,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘There’s no easy game and we still have to go out and win.

‘We’ve achieved nothing yet, so there’s no need for arrogance. We all know that there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Nobody wants to be caught off-guard, especially against an unpredictable side like the Lions. It’s going to be all business.’

The Stormers head into this year’s competition with two new senior Springboks, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana, at their disposal. Many have questioned the pair’s move to the underachieving Cape franchise, but Coetzee explains their value lies beyond their playing ability. Fourie and Habana will be called on to exercise their leadership skills as early as Round 1.

‘We are looking to our senior players to show some composure in the tight games, and that’s what we expect from Jaque and Bryan this Saturday. There are a number of leaders within the team, which is a good sign.’

While the Lions struggle at Super 14 level, they do usually save their best performances for the Stormers and WP. They beat WP at the back end of the 2009 Currie Cup, a defeat that cost Province an ‘easier’ semi-final against the Cheetahs, and also denied them the bonus point for four tries in the 2008 Super 14.

The Lions aren’t going to qualify for the play-offs, but they have every chance of punishing an overconfident team. Fortunately for Coetzee, the Stormers have worked hard to tick the humble box in the build up to Super 14 proper. Win or lose, they will now be judged by the rugby showings and not made to remember their pre-season promises.

By Jon Cardinelli