Stormers eye best season ever
Anton van Zyl (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – The Stormers have their sights on the best Super14 performance in the history of the franchise this year.
That was the word on Wednesday from lock Anton van Zyl, who is likely to be Andries Bekker’s lock partner when the Cape side kicks off its campaign against the Lions in Johannesburg on February 13.
“The high expectations of supporters are justified. The team started showing promise from the end of last year’s Super14 through the Currie Cup, and there are also new acquisitions,” said Van Zyl.
“We’re working hard at becoming the complete package, not as individuals, but as a team.
“As a team we’d like to come up with the best Stormers performance ever, but on a more practical level and in terms of vision, we’d just like to improve our performance every week. We’d like to perform better as a team than any Stormers team before us.”
The Stormers don’t have a particularly impressive history. They reached the semi-finals in 1999 and 2004, but at least were South Africa’s top team for a number of years when all its other sides were in the doldrums.
Either way, it is encouraging to hear that the Stormers want to perform well “as a team”.
Even the team of 1999 was tripped up by egos.
“There’s a huge emphasis on harmony in the team context to ensure that we’re all pulling in the same direction,” said Van Zyl.
“Last week during our training camp, for example, we spent some time away from rugby to ensure that we get to know one another. It’s important that everybody pulls together in tough times.”
With Adriaan Fondse still on the injured list, Van Zyl is likely to play a prominent role early on in this year’s campaign.
“If I’m fortunate enough to be picked as No 4 lock, it will be fantastic,” he said.
“Andries Bekker is a world class player and it’s important for me just to be part of the team.
“It’s still going to take a while for Fondsie to get back to full fitness, but he’s a terrific lock and the competition is going to get hot.”
Apart from the quality of his performances, 29-year-old Van Zyl is also a strong leader and he can be an important figure in the side.
“The team management have created a culture where each player is a leader in his own position. It’s about taking responsibility for your role in the team context,” said Van Zyl.
“If it’s my job to provide leadership for younger players, then I’d be delighted to do it.”
This can also be a year in which Van Zyl stakes his claim for the Green and Gold.
His consistency of performance and intelligence probably makes him a candidate.
“Any South African player who tells you he does not have his sights on the Green and Gold is probably telling a little white lie,” he said.
“I know my chances have as much to do with my performances as that of the team.
“My primary focus is to establish myself in the team and contribute to its performance.
“As a player you look better in a winning team. The Boks are a goal, but the focus is to ensure that the team reaches its goals.”