Stormers see testing tour as a positive challenge
The Stormers will use their challenging three-match Australasian tour to bond as a team off the field as much as on it‚ according to captain Siya Kolisi.
The Cape side started their 2018 Super Rugby campaign with a rusty 28-20 win over the Jaguares at Newlands at the weekend and will need to improve their finishing to have success on the road.
The Stormers are also touring without several senior players such as lock Eben Etzebeth‚ hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni‚ prop Frans Malherbe and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak.
Since last year they have also lost the services of influential players such as fullback Cheslin Kolbe‚ centres Juan de Jongh and Huw Jones‚ flyhalf Robert du Preez‚ flank Rynhard Elstadt and prop Olli Kebble‚ so the touring party is callow in many areas.
With matches against the Waratahs‚ Crusaders and Highlanders to come‚ it’s a daunting schedule for the squad. But Kolisi only sees the situation as positive.
“We wanted to get on the plane with a win and that’s what we achieved against the Jaguares‚” Kolisi said.
“We know people are saying that we have a tough tour‚ but that’s not how we view it. We are excited by the challenge and we’re looking forward to it.
“This tour is happening at the right time for us as a team. We are positive about it because we will have an opportunity to get to know each other as people a little better.
“We feel a lot for each other on the field thanks to all the time we’ve spent together in the pre-season‚ but away from rugby it’s now the time to become closer.
“We’ll have an opportunity to interact and chat to new or younger players over coffee and breakfast in a more social environment.
“It’s important for all of us to gel because the way injuries go‚ it could be the youngsters that are carrying the team at the back end of the competition.
“There are always setbacks for some players‚ which creates opportunities for others‚ so we will need every single guy in the group to give it everything for all the players that either didn't make the touring party through selection‚ or are injured.
“We talk about caring for one another and the only way to really show how much we care is by performing well on tour.
"We are not only doing it for the touring Stormers‚ we are also representing all the guys who won’t be with us.
"We’ll give it a flat out go and return a better team and a closer squad.”
There was some good news on the injury front with lock Pieter-Steph du Toit cleared to tour after recovering from a back injury.
Mbonambi's withdrawal‚ due to a burst appendix‚ means that hooker Dean Muir‚ who made his Stormers debut off the replacements bench against the Jaguares‚ is included in the touring squad along with looseforward Sikhumbuzo Notshe and prop Caylib Oosthuizen‚ who did not feature in the opening game.
"We enjoy touring as a group and feel that there were plenty of positives in our performance against the Jaguares that we can build on in the coming weeks‚” coach Robbie Fleck said.
"The players have embraced the challenges that lie ahead of us and will be going all-out to raise our game further away from home.”
Stormers touring squad:
Nizaam Carr‚ Damian de Allende‚ Jan de Klerk‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Dewaldt Duvenage‚ JJ Engelbrecht‚ JC Janse van Rensburg‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Siya Kolisi (captain)‚ Dillyn Leyds‚ Wilco Louw‚ SP Marais‚ Dean Muir‚ Sikhumbuzo Notshe‚ Caylib Oosthuizen‚ Justin Phillips‚ Raymond Rhule‚ Carlu Sadie‚ Ramone Samuels‚ JD Schickerling‚ Seabelo Senatla‚ Kobus van Dyk‚ Chris van Zyl‚ EW Viljoen‚ George Whitehead‚ Cobus Wiese‚ Damian Willemse.