One secret to the DHL Stormers’ success is the culture of emboldening all squad members with a pride in their roles, a characteristic personified by prop Neethling Fouche.
Fouche played nine of his 16 appearances off the bench as the DHL Stormers charged towards the Vodacom United Rugby Championship title in the 2021-22 season.
While there were five World Cup winners in the starting lineup that tackled the Vodacom Bulls in the grand final in Cape Town, it was the contribution of those around them that was equally key to the DHL Stormers lifting the trophy.
After the final, Fouche trumpeted the campaign contribution of those who weren’t in the matchday-23.
“Look at a guy like Scarra [Ntubeni] or [Leolin] Zas, who missed the final. A guy like Ali Vermaak, he’s 34 but he pitches up and warms up for the game knowing he’s not going to play and he does it with a smile. Before we run out he comes to me and says ‘try this’ and ‘do that’ in the scrums.
“It takes a collective effort. I’m glad we could do the jersey proud.”
Having served as an effective understudy to DHL Stormers centurion Frans Malherbe since arriving in Cape Town in 2018, Fouche takes pride in his role at the DHL Stormers.
“Our theme this year was the absurd heroes,” added Fouche. “You have the Boks, the stars, the guys who catch the shine and then you get the rest of us who just plough away.
“We bring the intensity to training. We have to keep the guys on their toes. I can’t allow Frans to get comfortable. I have to push him. Everyone has a voice in the team. Be bold, don’t be afraid. Go show your identity.”
Born in Rustenburg and schooled at Grey College in Bloemfontein, Fouche has enjoyed a rich rugby education, starting his career at the Vodacom Bulls, where he also represented the University of Pretoria in the Varsity Cup.
The tighthead prop is among those who have looked to use their opportunities in the absence of the Springboks.
“It’s very exciting,” Fouche told the media this week. “We’ve got a few guys who have been training constantly, but not getting game time. It’s really tough when you suddenly get your chance … It puts a lot of pressure on the guys.
“We saw how (lock) Gary Porter ran the lineouts. Kade (Wolhuter) came back as the flyhalf general. It’s nice for the coaches to see the guys take their chances.
“It speaks to the quality of the squad, and what we are about at the DHL Stormers.”