Small town Stormers

2007-12-13 09:56

Standing in the shadow of Table Mountain has done little to change Rassie Erasmus. What worked at the Cheetahs, he believes, will work in Cape Town.

When Erasmus was appointed to the senior coaching position in Cape rugby earlier this year, Western Province Currie Cup coach Gary Gold asked him to address the squad.

He asked Erasmus to tell the players what the rest of the country thought of them, how he as an opposition coach with the Cheetahs he prepared his side mentally and physically.

The response was brutal. Erasmus told the squad they were regarded as posers, as glory boys. They had the talent, he said, and therefore on their day could knock over any other side.

But the overall strategy was simple. Show the Stormers or WP you are up for a fight, he said, and they disappear.

Squad of underdogs

It's a mentality he's determined to shatter before the Super 14 kicks off next year.

He believes that the Stormers need to become a side that scraps for every point like a small-town squad of underdogs. And therefore he is coaching them like a small-town squad of underdogs.

The appointment of Jean de Villiers as captain is revealing. In private, Erasmus has stated that a leader must be an individual who doesn't polarize opinion. He appreciates the playing talent of former skipper Luke Watson, stand-in captain Schalk Brits and other contenders such as Schalk Burger, but believes that De Villiers encapsulates what a captain should be more than the others.

That is, an individual who won't make waves or headlines. He'll keep his head down, give a quiet word when needed, and take all other directions from the coach.

Basically, the way it's done in Bloem.

Erasmus has also realised the importance of altering the team's culture off the field.

Team's revised code of conduct

When at the Cheetahs, his players spoke fondly of the family atmosphere of the union. They had braais together in their free time, they said, and that their wives and kids were as part of the setup as they were.

It's something Erasmus is trying to emulate at the Stormers.

As part of the team's revised Code of Conduct, it states clearly that wives and girlfriends must be made to feel a full part of the team's culture and activities.

Build a family, he reasons, and they'll fight for each other.

The approach is refreshing and provides one of the more interesting sub-plots to the upcoming Super 14. Can Erasmus, a coach renowned for his tactical genius, show that his credentials as a man manager are equally impressive.

The question will be answered in May. Regardless of whether it is the most effective approach or not, it is clear that the status quo at the Stormers is changing.

And, bearing in mind the previous three failed campaigns, the in-fighting and the continual mediocrity that haunts Newlands, change can only be a good thing.

  • Chris is Chief Rugby Writer at Sports Illustrated and a former SAB Sports Rookie Journalist of the Year.

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    • Sello - 2007-12-13 10:14

      I must say that News24 hired just too many rugby writers. Thanks God the year is over, I was already drowning in the rugby columns.

    • Martin - 2007-12-13 10:24

      Come swimming.. if you dare!

    • The Truth - 2007-12-13 10:30

      This is just the beginning Chris.Wait until he drops your bosom buddy completely for being a divisive influence in the team (as he has proven to be in any team).Ask the Sharks and they will tell you.Well done Rassie & congratulations Jean.

    • Die Griek - 2007-12-13 10:34

      It is this culture - established by Meyer at the Bulls, Muir at the Sharks and Erasmus at the Cheetahs - which have been proven to be successull. With a little luck the egos in the Cape will not stand in the way of this culture.

    • uhuru - 2007-12-13 10:45

      Hey boet. Answer wont be here in May. You cannot expect ANY coach to take WP from zero to hero in one season. Here's to the Gauteng Lions, the Freestate Cheetahs, The Natal Sharks, The Loftus Bulls, and the WP Moffies.

    • indeedio - 2007-12-13 10:58

      Hopefully Rassie can emulate what he did at the Cheetahs.As a Die Hard Stormers/WP fan , they better start performing or I might face the humiliation of not even being beaten up at Loftus when wearing my Stormers/WP jersey..

    • John - 2007-12-13 10:58

      This is Province rugby he is talking about. Not Cheetahs. Mallet called it the most passionate rygby brand in the world. We are not interested in the Cheetahs in any way. What have they ever achieved in the Super 12/14 ? He has already made the mistake of importing a has been like Ricky W. Province has never been a physical side. They need to become smart again. Under Solly they were smart, not bulleys !

    • Oval ball - 2007-12-13 11:22

      Now all that remains is to do the same with the bunch of political stuffed-shirt administrators in WP rugby. Then we'll REALLY have a winning culture at Newlands again!!

    • Neil - 2007-12-13 11:31

      "give a quiet word when needed, and take all other directions from the coach". What type of bull sh*t is this ! Why bother with a captain then. When last did anybody from Free State captain a Springbok side in modern times ? Makes you wonder. Rassie must focus on getting the Province culture back on track. Check out our club rugby scene, find out what makes us tick, speak with the older ex-players. We don't braai and eat pap seven times a week! We spend time on the beach with our families!

    • Die Griek - 2007-12-13 11:35

      Btw...Good luck to the stormers next year in the S14. SA needs more teams at the top.

    • Bernard - 2007-12-13 11:37

      We can only hope and pray that Erasmus is our savior and will lead us out of the deep dark jungle...BUT, he did not leave Bloem a popular person/coach. Like you said, we'll know in May.

    • Sharks Fan - 2007-12-13 11:49

      The Stormers will always be a small team from a small town.

    • Jack The Beanstalk - 2007-12-13 12:00

      Rassie Erasmus is the biggest poacher of talent from other (smaller) unions. He is the one reason why "The Powers that be" should seriously consider the current policy concerning the "recruitment" of players. Maybe they should take a leaf from the AFL-book.

    • Johan - 2007-12-13 12:42

      Only problem is that his methods may have worked at CC level but were shown up at S14 level. They even finished behind the Stormers who were really bad last season.

    • Aziz Gierdien - 2007-12-13 14:06

      Its really exciting to see Rassie taking charge of the boys, his new way of doing things, the time has come and is long overdue, i.e. Currie Cup, here we come. Goodluck guys!

    • Morne Hoole - 2007-12-13 14:34

      The Stormers have the team on paper,..they have the skills, the names, the flair, the charm, the pace,... but they lack balls with a capital Ballas. Rugby is a game played by men and their motto must be when the going gets the the tough gets going and that's exactly where Rassie will stamp his authority. Players that's gonna shy away from their responsibility is Not gonna play in his team and rightly so. Be afraid cheetahs, very afraid!

    • I-am-a-Stormer - 2007-12-13 14:35

      Well, if telling them what everybody else in the country thinks of them doesn't have a significant change of attitude, then nothing will. Come on Stormers, we all know you guys have the talent, just get the will power and show some guts this season. You friggin well owe us long suffering supporters...especially us lot up in the Highveld.....

    • Die Griek - 2007-12-13 14:41

      News24, where is our comments?

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