DHL Stormers centre Jaque Fourie was ecstatic with his first away win over the Bulls, and wants to continue the momentum.
‘we didn’t panic, we remained very relaxed and calm at half-time, and just went out to produce another 40 minutes like the first half’
After experiencing the high of his first ever win over the Bulls at their home ground of Loftus Versfeld, one thing DHL Stormers centre Jaque Fourie is determined not to let happen today is for that good work to be undone by losing to the Western Force.
Backing up great wins with high-quality performances the following week is what distinguishes champion teams from the rest, and Fourie says he and his team-mates know it. Speaking the day after the epic triumph in Pretoria, Fourie said the need to deliver a strong follow-up to the 23-13 win would be a big emphasis in the build-up week to the Force match.
‘Beating the Bulls at Loftus was a great experience but we know that if we follow up that win by coming home and losing in the next match it will cancel out the effort we put in up there,’ says Fourie.
‘There are no easy games in the Super Rugby competition, and last year the Force taught us a lesson about how you cannot take anything for granted. You will recall that we put 50 points over them in the Neo Africa Tri-Series match at Newlands – we won easily. But then we started our tour in Perth after some excellent home performances and they caught us out.
‘So one thing you can be certain of is that we definitely won’t be taking them lightly. The Force are a good team, there are no easy opponents. They beat the Lions in Johannesburg last week and will have had their confidence boosted by their performance. From Tuesday we are going to forget about the Bulls win and focus only on our next match.’
However, Fourie made no secret of how much he and his team-mates enjoyed beating the Bulls and how much it meant to the team.
‘The Lions beat the Bulls at Loftus in a Currie Cup match when I was playing for them, but that day I was injured so I never got to experience it. So last week was a first for me in my career, I have never won at Loftus in a match against the Bulls.
‘It did mean a lot to us. We are in an important phase of the competition and after struggling to get going in some of our earlier games we needed to score a big win against a top team. We were very pleased to have pulled it through and it meant a lot to our confidence.
‘There was a bit of concern about our attacking game before Loftus, but what was pleasing there was that although the ball was wet, we managed to play with some confidence and threw the ball around a bit.’
Fourie says the DHL Stormers went to the Highveld expecting a dry day and were gearing themselves to play a running game against the Bulls. Although the conditions prevented them from going all out, the Cape team did not let the wet ground and ball prevent them from sticking to the initial plan.
‘That is the type of team we are and want to be, we want to play attacking rugby,’ he says. ‘We did struggle to get going in some of our games, but I think that has a lot to do with the disruptions we had in the pre-season build-up when key personnel were missing for various reasons. Last year we played all our warm-up fixtures with virtually the same team, whereas this year we couldn’t do that because of circumstance.
‘I was injured at the end of last season and only returned to the playing field just before the opening Super Rugby game against the Lions. Peter Grant was in Japan until just a couple of days before that first game. As a flyhalf he is an important cog in the machine, so it was difficult to work on all our backline plays with Peter not there. And there were other players who were also out.
‘Getting the attacking game together can take time and I am confident it will all start working for us now that we have a couple of games together under the belt and the combinations are starting to find each other again.’
Like his coach Allister Coetzee, the one area where Fourie is convinced the DHL Stormers have grown in the one year he has played for them is in their mental strength.
‘We have won a couple of games ugly this year, both in the pre-season phase and in Super Rugby. In previous years those were games where the Stormers could well have lost. In fact, it was something of a concern to us last year – we tended to lose the close games and there were questions asked about our mental strength and our ability to retain composure when the game was tight.
‘Although we didn’t play well, we took a lot of confidence out of those ugly wins and our ability to come from behind and win the match in the last minutes, like we did in the Neo Africa Tri-Series match against the Sharks and against the Lions in Super Rugby.’
That mental strength was something that he felt came through and worked for the team when they beat the Bulls.
‘I think that in the past there might have been a bit of panic after we let the Bulls back into the game with that Bjorn Basson try just before half-time. We had dominated the game until then and yet suddenly the Bulls were only two points behind us at half-time. But we didn’t panic, we remained very relaxed and calm at half-time, and just went out to produce another 40 minutes like the first half.’
Fourie has made a slow comeback from injury in that after making his return to the playing field after the Lions match he was then forced to sit out the following game against the Cheetahs, and only played off the bench against the Highlanders. After the Bulls game though he feels he is nearly back to peak match readiness.
‘I would say that at the moment I am five to 10 percent away from where I want to be. I think I am starting to get there. Right now I feel a little bit sore after the match. It takes a while for you to get used to the contact again, and the Bulls game was very physical. But the game went well and I am looking forward to building further on the confidence I picked up.’
Although no rugby player ever enjoys being injured, Fourie believes the toe injury that ruled him out of the deciding games in the 2010 Absa Currie Cup season and the end-of-year Springbok tour was a blessing in disguise.
‘It enabled me to have a proper off-season break and it was good for me both physically and mentally. This is going to be a long year, with a long Super Rugby season being followed by some international games before the big one, which is the World Cup. So I am glad I have started the season feeling really strong and refreshed.
‘I am really enjoying my rugby in the Cape. The change of environment has been good for me. Last year was an excellent one for us, but all of us are determined to ensure that we go one better than we did in 2010 by winning the competition. We know we can do it, we just need to focus on each game as it comes.
‘Then after that there is the World Cup. We have a title to defend and we are determined to become the first side to retain the trophy. We know the goal we want to achieve and we know how we want to go about it. I am very excited about what lies ahead this year.’ – Gavin Rich DHL Stormers Matchday Magazine v Force.