The 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby season might have ended in disappointing fashion for the DHL Stormers on Saturday, but coach Allister Coetzee’s youth policy was a victory itself for the Men from Cape Town.
The DHL Stormers went into Saturday’s semifinal encounter against the Sharks – a game they sadly lost by 19-26 – with four members of their pack still under the age of 21.
Of the starting pack in action at DHL Newlands, prop Steven Kitshoff, lock Eben Etzebeth and flanker Siya Kolisi are still eligible for the DHL Western Province Under-21 team – Kitshoff having also played for the victorious South African Under-20 team earlier this year.
On the bench, replacement tighthead prop Frans Malherbe – a 60th-minute replacement for Brok Harris – is still young enough to play for the DHL WP U21 team, whilst injured loose forward Nizaam Carr, who suffered a tournament-ending knee injury against the Cheetahs, is also just 21 years of age.
“If you compare those guys – in terms of their age and potential – no other pack in the competition can compare to ours,” enthused the Stormers coach. “These guys are going to be a serious force for years to come.
“For me, all the youngsters really stood out this season and they all showed an incredible amount of maturity – despite being without some key leaders at times during the season.
“If you think about it, the guys were on tour in Australasia at one point without Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers – who were back home injured – and with other team leaders like Andries Bekker and Duane Vermeulen both out injured. But the youngsters still stood up and that’s thanks to the culture that we’ve cultivated in the Stormers squad this year.
“The guys all believed in each other throughout the year,” added Coetzee, “there was a huge work ethic throughout and nobody ever gave up, no matter what. That really stood out for me in 2012.”
Coetzee admitted that he was still battling to shake off the disappointment of the weekend’s defeat – despite being forced to turn his attention to the 2012 Absa Currie Cup season which gets underway next weekend already.
In terms of his planning over the next few days, Coetzee revealed: “I’ve given the guys off until Thursday.
“We will thus start our Currie Cup preparations from Thursday morning onwards and I think the change of focus, in terms of preparing for another competition, will help motivate the guys.
“I have never seen the players as disappointed as they were on Saturday… but I have no doubt that most of that disappointment was due to the fact that they couldn’t reward their fans for their commitment shown this season.
“The players play for their fans and they know that they wouldn’t be half the team without their amazing supporters. The guys put their bodies on the line every single week but it’s all down to the respect the players have for their fans,” added the DHL Stormers and WP coach.
“I know it must also be a bitter pill for the supporters to swallow but all I can ask is for them to hang in there with us. It’s not easy, the players want to make their fans proud and I’ve no doubt it has added to the players’ pain. I’d like to thank the Stormers faithful for their wonderful support in 2012 and, please, bear with us… the results will come.”