‘They were not given a chance; that’s the best’ – Chris van Zyl, former Stormers captain

The Stormers raise the Shield of South Africa during the United Rugby Championship match between Scarlets and Stormers at Parc and Scarlets on May 21, 2022. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

  • Former Stormers captain Chris van Zyl says being dropped was the ideal position the Stormers could have asked for in the URC.
  • The retired former lockkeeper says John Dobson and Co. could do its business quietly but effectively in the background.
  • Van Zyl also believes they can go all the way, even win the URC, after overcoming incredible odds to win the SA Shield.

Former Stormers and Western Province captain Chris van Zyl says being ruled out before the competition began was the ideal position the Stormers wanted to quietly go about their business in the inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC).

The Stormers won the SA Shield last weekend after beating the Scarlets at Llanelli thanks to a late try from Ruhan Nel after the Sharks had failed against Ulster a day earlier.

It wasn’t just that they lost Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and World Cup-winning rock stars Bongi Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

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But, as John Dobson illustrated in his great interview with Sport24’s Rob Houwing, they had to deal with uncertainty over salary payments, having been without a CEO or director of rugby since Paul Zacks and Gert Smal left when their union controller (Western Province) fell into administration. .

They were also handily outclassed in the transfer market by their closest rivals, the Sharks and Bulls: Dobson described them as “window buyers”, while the Sharks took former Stormer Eben Etzebeth.

Van Zyl, however, says the less-than-loser tag attached to Dobson and company suited them well.

They went about their business without anyone noticing until they started scalping some big scalps, like the Bulls in Lofts and the Sharks in Cape Town.

“A lot has happened regarding other unions and the number of power signings they have made and they are on a proper acquisition path,” Van Zyl tells Sport24.

“During the season, it seemed like the Stormers were taking a backseat, going about their business and giving the guys the best opportunity they could.

“I think that position was a great fit for ‘Dobbo’ and the way he operates, as well as Norman (Laker) and Dawie Snyman. Knowing them and all the players there, I’m incredibly proud of how they’ve done their jobs.” business.

“They didn’t have the most ideal start, but they would have built a narrative around that, ‘People can write us off, but we believe in what we have internally and what we’re going to be able to create this year.’

“From there they built momentum. On top of that they are playing a very good style of rugby and something I can be really proud of as a Stormers and Province fan.”

Van Zyl adds: “The other part of this story is that the union has settled down quite a bit for the first time in a long time. It has been out of the news for non-rugby issues for some time.

“I think it’s giving backroom staff the clarity to just train. That pays dividends. You can’t ignore the fact that, even under management, the results have been going pretty well.”

The Stormers host Edinburgh in the URC quarter-finals next weekend after finishing second on record to Irish giants Leinster, who face La Rochelle this weekend in the European Champions Cup final. .

“They will have a nothing to lose attitude and they will go out and express themselves. I have no doubt that they could be the first URC champions.”

They have swept the field in 2022, playing sumptuous rugby, losing only to Connacht away from home this calendar year.

The backline trident of Warrick Gelant, Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok has also had tongues wagging in the process.

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“I don’t know what his current mantra or theme is, but before, it was about making Cape Town smile; not just winning, but also the way we play,” says Van Zyl.

“It was about going back to those days of running rugby. I think we got lost during the transition maybe. But clearly they struck a very clever balance.

“It’s fantastic to see the guys I’ve played with come to their own. I think Damian Willemse has been fantastic at 12 years old and it’s great to see that Manie has been given a chance and that the coaches have backed him and he’s taken with both hands.

“Those are the best stories. Their URC journey inspires me because I know the management and the players and I’m proud of them.”

Van Zyl is also quite optimistic about the Capetonians’ chances in the rest of the tournament, tipping them to reach the final, probably against Leinster.

“I have no doubt that they can reach the final, 100%,” he says.

“My prediction is that it will be a Leinster-Stormers final and what happens in that final [is anyone’s guess]. I have no doubt that the way ‘Dobbo’ and ‘Kitshie’ (captain Steven Kitshoff) operate and the leadership group, they will have the ability to win this tournament.

“The best part is going to be, the way the narrative has been this season, they haven’t been given a chance, that could be the same sentiment for the finals. And that would be the best thing for the Stormers.”

“They will have a nothing to lose attitude and they will go out and express themselves. I have no doubt that they could be the first URC champions.”

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