The strength of this current DHL Stormers side lies in our diversity. It’s been a non-negotiable for us from the outset that when rebuilding a team, in a new home which is the DHL Stadium, that it needs to be a team representative of the new age of South African rugby.
While I was one who was privileged to experience Newlands Rugby Stadium and reflect with fondness on memories of playing on the field and sitting in the crowd, there are many in this country who were not afforded the same opportunity, and whose recollection of that era is very different to mine.
So, while the rugby memories remain good for those privileged to experience the stadium in the same light as me, there are at the same time painful memories of a divided country and a racially exclusive rugby system.
A lot of people speak about DHL Western Province being 130 years old, but the reality is that the unified DHL Western Province is 31 years old, and the beauty of a new stadium and a new home is that we get to build a new history. Our squad comes from such a mixed cultural background, but it represents every aspect of the Western Province.
The field that we call home now does not come with any form of baggage, and to christen the new home with an inaugural tournament win in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship was a special moment. I think a lot of the boys felt that they gave something back to the province that they proudly represent and started a new chapter in DHL Western Province and DHL Stormers rugby history.
DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers have a new home of rugby, in the DHL Stadium, and having won 19 games in a row here, we really could not have asked for a better start to our stay.
The move has been spectacular and we are incredibly happy there. It’s where we want to be and where rugby is going to thrive.
Newlands is antiquated, old and most of the players in the current team have little to no memories from it. The consequences of failing to sell Newlands would be stratospheric; I don’t see how we would survive as a professional rugby union without selling the old stadium.
The most important thing is that rugby in this region survives and thrives.
Turning our eyes to this weekend, we have a tough outing against Clermont. The axing of their coach was a surprise to many, but it’s another sacking among many comings and goings recently that reinforce what a ruthless environment it is to coach professionally. Despite the change in management, we can’t underestimate Clermont. We learned huge lessons when we took them on in France, one of which was attitude and mentality.
The boys need to remember their roots; where they come from and who they are playing for, from their families to the jersey. I do believe this side has the mental strength of the best in the world, and it is unique for such a young group of lads. When their minds are in the right place, they can beat anyone.
It was tough to go down to Glasgow by such a small margin, but we’re a no-excuses side and while we always strive for victory, blame in the face of defeat is not our style. We went to London Irish a week later to get five league points and we came back with that, which is testament to the mental fortitude of the boys.
Wherever this side has gone and whatever we’ve done over the last two years we have been pioneers, and that’s something I constantly want to remind the management and players of.
The diversity of this side is unique, as is the force that pushes each player individually to want to achieve. When there is an acknowledgement of how our roots align with our goals, that is when we are at our strongest.