Watson a help or hindrance for the Stormers?

2009-01-26 00:00

THE Stormers’ 43-33 win over the Saracens in their first outing of the year suggested that Rassie Erasmus’s team will be a force in the Super 14 this year — and that Puke Watson will prove a powerful motivating tool for the other South African sides and their supporters.

Luke Watson, in his own inimitable way, went to the very top of the list of how to lose friends and alienate people in the close season when he said at a function that Dutchmen were running South African rugby and the sight of a Springbok jersey unsettled his tummy.

He somehow escaped any disciplinary action as the toothless SA Rugby and Western Province Rugby Union took the comfortable option and swept the matter under the carpet.

The South African crowds and players are certain to prove less forgiving. Playing against the Saracens at Newlands on Sunday, he was reportedly roundly booed when he touched the ball. And, if that is the reaction from his home crowd, what awaits him and the Stormers when they travel north to meet the Bulls at Loftus on March 7 and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on May 16?

A leading South African official told The Witness that Watson had been ordered to write a letter of apology to his Stormers team-mates. Whether that is true or not, there are still many thousands outside Cape Town who have been slighted by the unrepentant Watson.

Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus has complained about the booing of Watson at Newlands and said it would not influence his selection.

“When he scored his try some people were cheering and the other half were booing, which was a bit funny,” Erasmus told the media. “If people want to put their energy into something like that during 13 matches of Super 14 rugby, then that’s up to them.

“The real supporters will support this team and the decisions that have been made. Every single person in this squad is there because they deserve to be and we are happy with the team we have.”

Captain Jean de Villiers agreed, adding that he was only concerned with what was happening on the field.

“I thought Luke played well,” he said.

Still, and for all his rugby talents and commitment on the field, Watson will make it difficult for his team. Not only will he prove a distraction, which the Stormers do not need at the start of the season, but he will also fire up both the opposition and the crowds.

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