Stormers' crazy little Zim trip
Cape Town - The Stormers' recent trip to Zimbabwe was eventful, to say the least.
The main aim was obviously to continue preparations for the upcoming Super Rugby season - a 43-7 win over the Cheetahs in Harare on Saturday went down well - but the side experienced a couple of unscripted off-field moments that are often the essence of what these team building tours are all about.
The first surprise came in the form of a scary take-off from Harare, after the Cheetahs match, when the squad was leaving for a couple of days of team building at the Victoria Falls.
There was no mechanical problem with the aeroplane, but the pilot was forced into an unplanned landing immediately after take-off as a flock of birds went crashing into the windscreen.
"We hit a bird on take-off and had to pull back the engines," coach Robbie Fleck explained at a Cape Town 10s function on Wednesday night.
"We had a five-hour delay in Harare. As the plane was taking off the birds hit the plane. The pilot said he didn't know how many birds there were but the blood was splattered all over the windscreen."
Quite graphic, but it did prove to be a scary moment for the players.
"Nemo (Nizaam Carr) was screaming. He thought it was the last hours of his life," centre Juan de Jongh said on the Stormers' Facebook page.
"Once we got there it was amazing. We spent two days at the Vic falls and the guys did the river rafting and went on a sunset cruise. It was just fantastic and a great time for us to team-build," Fleck added.
Then, after a testing little session of river rafting, the Stormers experienced a more touching moment.
"Apart from going there to play rugby and achieve a few goals, we also wanted to mix with the locals and help out," said Fleck.
"We went river rafting and there were a whole lot of locals there that help transfer these boats from the gorge ... it's like a 150m climb and it's seriously steep.
"They were standing up at the top there and some of them are running bare-foot and some of them had old 'tekkies' with holes in them.
"The players got together and gave away their own training shoes and it was an unbelievable experience to witness what was happening.
"Those locals really appreciated it and every single player on the river rafting - there were 30 - gave their shoes away. These guys will never forget it and they will remember who we are."
As a result, the Stormers had to cancel their final training session of the trip.
"We were going to go for a run down to Vic Falls. Maybe that was their (the players') thinking, to get out of training," Fleck joked.
"No, it was an amazing thing and it shows the character of the team at the moment.
"The other teams were also there (Harare) ... the Bulls and the Cheetahs. It was a bit old school when all the teams got together and had chats and a good time. It was well worthwhile."
The Stormers continue their pre-season preparations this weekend when they take on a South Western Districts (SWD) side in George.
"We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. We're going to take a team of guys that need some more game time," Fleck said of his side's next challenge.
"We want to keep pushing our youngsters that are coming through. We have to just keep working hard and build on what we started in Zimbabwe."
Saturday's match will take place at Outeniqua Park and will kick off at 16:00.