The DHL Stormers squad took some valuable learnings from their first pre-season hit-out on Varsity Day at Florida Park in Ravensmead on Saturday.
The local community turned out in their numbers to see an extended 28-man DHL Stormers squad go through their paces in four 20 minute matches against CPUT, a DHL WP XV made up of local club players, UCT and Maties in hot conditions at the home of Tygerberg RFC.
There was a carnival atmosphere as the DHL Stormers players interacted with the crowd and held a signing session for the Faithful to get a little closer to their heroes.
As much fun as there was on the side of the field, there was plenty of hard work on the pitch, as the Varsity teams put up a good showing on the day.
DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson said that while he was slightly disappointed with the execution from his players at times, they could not have asked more of the opposition as they kicked pre-season off with a proper work-out.
“To be honest I had hoped for a little bit more from us in terms of what we have been training. Our attack was a little disjointed, our breakdown wasn’t great, but in terms of contact conditioning and the occasion it was superb.
“I thought we got more than we thought we were going to get. The DHL WP XV coached by Jerome [Paarwater] was amazing after training only a couple of times in the evenings.
“It just shows the depth, all of those Universities came with two sides, it is incredible the depth of rugby in the Western Cape,” he said.
Dobson added that his squad will have taken some important lessons out of the experience, as they continue building towards their first game of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, with two more pre-season fixtures next weekend.
“We have got lots of room for improvement, like I said with our discipline and breakdown, but it gives us some work to do before the two games against the Kings in Knysna on Friday and against the Cell C Sharks on SuperHero Sunday.
“It is going to be hard to fill the two teams, but now we know a lot more about how to choose those teams,” he explained.
The DHL Stormers team hopes to connect with the local community in this way throughout the season, in a bid to bring the team closer to their Faithful supporters.
“Hopefully this will become an annual event, hopefully UWC will join us next year. It was a great showcase for Western Province rugby.
“The whole thing was to come out to the community and for the 11th of January to have a few thousand people here shows the appetite.
“It is going to be challenging to choose two teams within three days next week, obviously SuperHero Sunday is a great occasion and the guys are looking forward to it, but our most important thing is the way we reach out and the way we play we can try and get as many people into DHL Newlands for our first game of the season on the first of February.
“It is going to be a special game as a welcome back to DHL Newlands for those World Cup winners and I think we are heading in the right direction based on what we saw today,” Dobson added.