Coetzee defends fan diversity

    2013-04-03 14:23

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town - Stormers coach Allister Coetzee believes it to be ironic that his union is the “most diverse” in South Africa and yet still experiences occasional local antagonism from citizens of the city who get behind New Zealand causes and the Crusaders in particular.

    A signal of how sensitive and complex the matter of the ‘Cape Crusaders’ contingent in the vicinity of Newlands has become, was how delicately both Coetzee and captain Jean de Villiers tackled the matter when inevitably quizzed on it at Wednesday’s media briefing for the upcoming derby (Saturday, 17:05) away to the Cheetahs.

    De Villiers was initially reluctant to speak out when asked just how much of an impact the issue had had on the team, especially considering that they were very audibly booed by red-jerseyed local supporters of the Cantabrian side as they alighted from their bus for last Saturday’s Super Rugby clash, won 19-14 by the visitors.

    The incumbent Springbok skipper and veteran centre paused for a significant period before saying: “Yes, it’s tough ... it’s probably something I shouldn’t comment on.”

    Coetzee was more forthcoming: “Look, as players we know that when we go to Newlands we’ve got our supporters and have to play for our supporters, and whoever is not supporting the team at (the venue) ... well, it’s their choice.

    “We’ve learnt in the past that it’s something that shouldn’t really affect us mentally, but in no circumstances is it a normal thing. We can’t deny that.

    “Yet we are the most diverse union in this country and still the team doesn’t get (unanimous) support ... somewhere, there’s something wrong.

    “It’s a union where you see club players playing in our (representative) teams – look at all other teams, they use fully-contracted players; we’re the only one using club players in our Vodacom Cup side.

    “Some guys seem to be saying that we’re not tapping into clubs. I don’t know what mood they are in when they write those kinds of things.

    “It’s out of our hands, out of our control. You can’t force people to support the Stormers.

    “(The issue) is not something that came about yesterday. The origins go back a long way and I don’t want to venture into that.

    “We are a team and have a responsibility to entertain those who support us, and we’re grateful and really happy for that. I still feel we’re the best-supported franchise. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t get the result (for them) last weekend.”

    In a question addressed to either of De Villiers or Coetzee, they were asked where the hostility of the Cape Crusaders faction was most felt last weekend. Was it as they came off the bus, or on the field itself?

    Here the captain piped up first: “I really think we should get back to the rugby. It’s an issue that happened, and at the end of the day rugby is there for the entertainment, for the spectators and also enjoyment by the players.

    “Once that gets taken away, once it gets more than that, then I think it’s the wrong place and we’re not getting out of the rugby what we want to get from it.

    “I think we should leave it at that and hopefully people can enjoy rugby for what it is, and with that show the respect and behaviour that’s needed for a rugby game.

    “It is a tough game, but in my opinion rugby players have always been gentlemen off the field and enjoyed each others’ company.

    “It’s not about more than that: it’s having respect on the field, fighting hard, and then shaking peoples’ hands.

    “That’s where we should leave it and get back to the game on Saturday.”

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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